This Is Not Your Father's Catholic Priest

Catholic priest Guilherme Peixoto spreads the gospel as a DJ
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Nov 14, 2023 2:07 PM CST
This Priest Is Spreading Christianity as a DJ
Priest Guilherme Peixoto plays with the Portuguese Army Symphonic Band in Viana do Castelo, Portugal, Oct. 26, 2023. "It’s very important to me to not only be the priest DJ, but be the shepherd of the community," he says. "The world is not so closed to Jesus. But you need to speak the language."   (AP Photo/Miguel Angelo Pereira)

Guilherme Peixoto, a village priest in northern Portugal, has been busy this month celebrating Masses at his two parishes, presiding over remembrances for the dead—and, as the AP reports, preparing the electronic music set for his next international DJ gig. What started nearly two decades ago as a novel way to fundraise for the local churches has become essential to the ministry of this 49-year-old Catholic priest in a rapidly secularizing continent where religious practice is dropping fast—especially among young people. "With electronic music I can take some message, I can be where young people are," Peixoto said a few days after returning to Laundos from playing at a large Halloween festival in Italy. "They can think, 'If it's possible for a priest to be DJ, it's possible for me to like music, and festivals, and be Christian.'"

The priest broke onto the global stage over the summer when the organizers of World Youth Day in Lisbon asked him to "wake up the pilgrims" at 7am before Pope Francis' open-air Mass in August. Peixoto, who's also a military chaplain, had been preparing for the sets he would play with the Portuguese Army's symphony band in late October, but he put everything aside and started prepping for the huge event only a few weeks away. Early into the 30-minute set, the 1978 exhortation by St. John Paul II to "not be afraid" to open one's heart to Christ sounded out in Italian. Pope Francis' words that the Church has room for all—"todos, todos, todos" in Spanish—closed out the set as pilgrims danced and Peixoto smiled broadly.

When Peixoto was first sent to Laundos in the mid-2000s, the parish was cash-strapped and in debt from renovations to the main church. But parishioners were tired of bake sales and door-knocking campaigns, so Peixoto called onto the youth choirs to start karaoke fundraisers. He livened up those events playing rock sets from his laptop. Within a few years, debts were paid off, fresh church renovations were completed, Peixoto was taking professional DJ classes, and most parishioners had come to take it for granted that the priest mixed a wicked beat at Ar de Rock. "In the beginning it was strange, but now it's the norm. They understood the priest is also a person," said Tania Campos, an Ar de Rock volunteer. Read the full story.

(More Catholic priest stories.)

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