This outstanding Catholic singer wants others to share their gifts

5 mins read
Sara Kroger
Courtesy of Sarah Kroger Credit: Erick Frost

Sarah Kroger still remembers when, as a teenager, she encountered God in a new way through contemporary worship music. Today, she dedicates her life to giving others that same opportunity — by inviting them to God through her own music.

“I think that’s my goal at all times … that it would draw people to the real presence of God, whether it’s literally when they’re physically present with him in the Eucharist or in their day-to-day life,” the 36-year-old singer said. “That if they are listening to my music in their day-to-day movements — whether they’re thinking about it or not — that they would be drawn into the heart of God and his love for them.”

The Nashville-based Catholic worship leader and songwriter spoke with Our Sunday Visitor ahead of performing at the National Eucharistic Congress taking place July 17-21 in Indianapolis. The event marks the culmination of the National Eucharistic Revival, a three-year initiative by the U.S. Catholic bishops that seeks to renew the Catholic Church by enkindling a living relationship with Jesus Christ in the holy Eucharist.

Kroger, who performs nationally and internationally, has already released five albums: “Your Time” (2011), “Hallelujah Is Our Song” (2013), “Bloom” (2019), “Light” (2020) and “London Sessions” (2023). She revealed that she is preparing to release new music shortly.

“A big part of what I’ve been diving into as an artist and as a writer [and] just in general as a human being is just the wonder of God and his presence in the world around us,” Kroger hinted at her upcoming music.

Of all of her songs, she called “Belovedness” her favorite to sing.

The song focuses on each person’s identity as a beloved child of God. The chorus stresses God’s message: “You’re mine, I smiled when I made you; I find you beautiful in every way; My love for you is fierce and unending; I’ll come to find you, whatever it takes; My beloved.”

“It’s so deeply personal,” Kroger described, “and I feel like every time I sing it, God teaches me something new about myself — and the ways that he sees me and loves me.”

The gift of music

Music, Kroger said, is and always was a part of her life. Even before she was born, her parents participated in music ministry.

“I was kind of forced to take piano lessons from a very young age,” Kroger said. “Very grateful for that now, but at the time hated it and struggled through it.”

But from the beginning, music was a way she “connected to the divine,” she said.

“Even though I wouldn’t have been able to always verbalize it that way, especially when I was a kid,” she commented. “There’s something about beauty that connects us to something bigger than ourselves.”

Her life — and relationship with music — changed when she attended a Steubenville youth conference (a conference associated with Franciscan University of Steubenville in Steubenville, Ohio) as a junior in high school. A cradle Catholic, Kroger remembered going through the motions with her faith at the time, where attending church equated to checking off a box.

That changed when, at the conference, Kroger experienced contemporary worship music for the first time. She recalled two songs in particular that moved her: “Better Is One Day” and “Sweep Me Away.”

“When contemporary worship came into my life, it was like hearing this language that was brand new, but somehow familiar to me,” she remembered. “It became this vehicle through which I could communicate to God on a personal level for the first time in my life.”

At that same conference, Kroger faced another realization: She needed to share her gift of music with others.

“There was a speaker talking to the whole room, but it was one of those moments where it felt like he was speaking directly to me,” she recalled. “He said, ‘If you have a gift from God and you’re not using it, you’re denying the glory of God within you.'”

“I felt like God was convicting me and kind of tapping on my shoulder lovingly and saying, ‘Hey, this isn’t meant for just you. This is meant for beyond you, and I’m inviting you to share this gift, to be a part of this story that I’m telling,'” she remembered.

Sarah Kroger sings “Belovedness” during adoration at Life Fest ahead of the national March for Life on January 19, 2023, in Washington, D.C. Credit: Screenshots taken from Sisters of Life YouTube channel from “Life Fest 2024 Live-Stream”

After her experience at the conference, she began leading worship at her church and singing as a cantor.

“I was terrified to sing in front of people for a really long time because I was bullied a lot in elementary school,” she revealed.

While she had performed in children’s choirs, she never stepped out before as an individual, she said.

“Probably sounded like a dying animal every Sunday,” she said. “But little by little, just grew in courage and it was really God inviting me to say ‘yes.'”

Looking back through her life today, as a professional artist, she could see God’s fingerprints.

“When I look back on my story, I just see all of these little invitations to say ‘yes’ to God along the way,” she said. “I think that that’s really what it’s all about, is our faith journey and our vocation stories is saying ‘yes,’ little by little, and allowing God to transform that ‘yes’ into something that you never thought possible.”

A pro-life approach

In the past, Kroger has performed at events surrounding the national March for Life, an annual rally in Washington, D.C., that challenges abortion and celebrates the beauty of life around the anniversary of Roe v. Wade, the Supreme Court’s 1973 ruling that previously legalized abortion nationwide. Most recently, she performed at Life Fest, a rally by the Sisters of Life and the Knights of Columbus, that takes place hours before the march.

Kroger called herself passionate about the pro-life issue.

“For me, being pro-life — this is why I love being Catholic, because of Catholic social teaching and what we teach about being pro-life — that it’s not just about being pro-baby, that it’s about a holistic approach to being pro-life from conception to natural death,” she said.

She gave the example of how, today, her pro-life views impact her financial decisions, including by avoiding the fast fashion industry where workers are often exploited.

“Learning about fast fashion and the dignity of the human being in the workplace and how many of these fast fashion companies abuse their employees or use child labor,” she explained.

At the same time, she said, challenging abortion and upholding the dignity of the family are important “and a part of what it means to me to be pro-life.”

A word of encouragement

Kroger, who has previously spoken about struggling with bullying as well as shyness and anxiety, shared her advice for those who might feel afraid to share their gifts.

“My encouragement to anyone out there who feels like they are afraid of sharing their gifts is that our gifts were never meant for us alone,” she emphasized. “Each of us [was] made uniquely in the image of God and to share a piece of his glory that only you can shine in the world.”

A couple of years ago, she said, she realized fear was keeping her from becoming the person God intended.

Sara Kroger
Sarah Kroger sings “Belovedness” during adoration at Life Fest ahead of the national March for Life on January 19, 2023, in Washington, D.C. Credit: Screenshots taken from Sisters of Life YouTube channel from “Life Fest 2024 Live-Stream”

“My encouragement to you … is that you would not allow fear to keep you from becoming the person that God is asking you to be,” she urged. “The world needs you, and the world needs your light and your gift. So shine bright.”

For her part, Kroger remains focused on God.

“That’s my dream in life, is to just be in the presence of God,” she said at another point. “To pray without ceasing and to continually open my eyes to the ways that he’s at work in my life, in the big ways and small ways, in the moments that are loud and in the moments that are super quiet — and everything in between.”

“He’s the one,” she concluded, “that’s woven it all together.”

Katie Yoder

Katie Yoder is a contributing editor for Our Sunday Visitor.