Catholic Herald Staff
If he who sings prays twice, what about he who writes the song?
“Paved the path of faithfulness, touched the lives of the humblest.
Breath of the poorest of poor, Glory to God the Most High.
Christ is all, Christ in all.”
Those lyrics are the refrain of “Christ in All,” a hymn co-written by international priest Fr. Bala Allam and St. Theresa of Avila’s retired parish music minister Mark Pieplow.
Pat Freeman, the member of the Three Lakes parish who contacted the Catholic Herald, said “Christ in All” was only one of a handful of hymns the two worked on together.
“Christ in All” was the first collaboration, written for a Mass with Bishop James P. Powers to dedicate new construction at the church and the blessing of a statue of St. Teresa of Calcutta. The statue, purchased in Italy, was meant to honor the international priests serving from India who have been sacramental ministers of the Three Lakes parish, which is clustered with St. Kunegunda in Sugar Camp.
Fr. Allam wrote all the lyrics. Since Pieplow worked for the church as music minister, the priest approached him and he accepted the task of composing the music.
“We composed, recomposed, composed and recomposed,” said Pieplow, who wanted to be sure his wife, Phyllis, was acknowledged for her help with finding words to express Fr. Allam’s desired meaning.
Fr. Allam noted, “So many people were so pleased to hear it – so emotional… Clearly the song touched many lives.”
The two worked on another song in the back of the bus to and from a pilgrimage to Our Lady of Good Help in Champion.
Pieplow shared they were “still trying to get the rhyming right and we had little disagreements about finding the right words for the meaning he wanted.”
Both recognized the genuine collaboration and compromising nature of their work, built on individual experience and talents.
Fr. Allam’s desire to write poetry started in the seminary when he was 14 years old. He has written articles and songs, including a hymn in his native language for his home parish’s jubilee celebration and the school song for a school in India. He has also compiled an album and translated a few songs into English.
Pieplow, a UW-Eau Claire graduate and band director, started his teaching career in Winter, where he taught for 42 years. After four years in Rosendale near Fond du Lac, Pieplow took a position for two years in Three Lakes, where the couple knew they would retire.
He has always loved playing the piano and has written instrumental music and arrangements for high school band. Since working with music ministry, Pieplow has composed liturgical psalms for almost the entire three-year cycle of readings.
After Fr. Allam wrote five more songs en route to and from his family visit, COVID-19 put some things on hold.
Included was a song called “Jubilation,” composed to commemorate the parish’s 125th anniversary, that was to premiere at Fr. Allam’s final Mass in the cluster at the end of June.
This fourth jointly composed hymn was never sung in the church because of the pandemic.
After two years ministering in New Zealand, Fr. Allam completed four years of serving in the Diocese of Superior. His departure to India was delayed because of COVID-19 travel restrictions, but he was finally able to leave Aug. 6.
Going from South Pole to North Pole, the priest said has been a “great experience to serve … many traditional Catholics more into their faith and living their faith.”
He requested a special thanks be included on his behalf – to the people of the parishes he served, to the clergy and faithful of the diocese for his beautiful experience these four years, and in a special way to Bishop Powers and his generosity of heart towards all the international priests, his fraternal love and his charity in continuing to provide him with health insurance during the travel delay.
“Please mention my gratitude to Bishop Powers and let the people of God know in the diocese how generous in heart Bishop Powers is,” Fr. Allam wrote.
These lyrics are from two of the songs written by Fr. Bala Allam and composed by Mark Pieplow.
“Christ in All”
Breath of soothing oil of grace, dying became the bread of life.
Quenched the thirst of healing to become the living Body of Christ.
Wrapped the toddlers and raised them high, saved for eternal life.
No longer me, stay with me, be God’s healing hands.
Wrinkled, twisted, torn and drenched wounded for thirsting souls.
Flood my soul with thy spirit and life; Christ, shine through me.
I will hold you, behold me. Come, be my light.
Spreading thy fragrance bestow in me, radiate they light.
Wiped the tears of the poor and lame, pray to the ocean of mercy.
Broken into sorrow and pain, you raise them to Christ’s glory.
Wings of grace empowered those dying with joy and bliss,
Bestow in me shine as shone, for the love of the Savior.
Jubilation, jubilation, grace-filled celebration, in the vineyard of the Lord.
One in heart, one in mind we walk to your altar,
young and old filled with joy we bow before your power.
Wood of the cross leads to the wood of the pines.
O jubilation in the vineyard of the Lord.
Colors of life, white snowflakes falling down,
Green buds of spring that will radiate your joy.
Ice castles, winds of cold, winter’s long dark nights,
Fish jump, casting nets the Triune God ignites.
Birds, butterflies and eagles portray the new garden of Eden.
Clouds and blue skies, the bluegills and tall pines
Rainbows that echo God’s holy covenant.
Long wooded paths of pine, pastures colored green
Thunder, lightning reveal those things unseen.
Deer, bear and grouse give witness, assuring our wonders of freedom.
Sun and the moon, the stars up in the sky.
Water that sparkles like diamonds in the sun.
Sun rising in the east, sets with brilliant hues,
Guide us as we see the promises of you.
Bless us as you have blessed our forefathers who came before us.