May 5, 2006

Annie Karto expresses her love for God, Divine Mercy through music

Editor’s Note: This is the third article in a series of occasional feature stories about Catholic musicians with connections to the Archdiocese of Indianapolis.

By Mary Ann Wyand

“Divine Mercy, Flood My Soul” is one of Annie Karto’s favorite songs.

The Indianapolis native and internationally known Catholic musician wrote it to express her love for God and her dedication to promoting the Divine Mercy devotion that St. Maria Faustina, a Polish nun, began in the 1930s.

Now living in Treasure Island, Fla., Karto visited her hometown for a keynote presentation at Treasuring Womanhood, the third annual Catholic women’s conference held on April 22 at the Indiana Convention Center in Indianapolis.

The conference was scheduled on the eve of Divine Mercy Sunday, and was sponsored by the archdiocesan Office for Pro-Life Ministry and the Marian Center of Indianapolis.

“Music is healing,” Karto said in a telephone interview before the conference. “St. Augustine said that when you sing you pray twice, but many people don’t know that part of his conversion was through music. … I think music bypasses the mind and goes straight to the heart, and that’s where conversion takes place. It’s a very healing instrument that God uses to bring people back to him.”

The daughter of Bill and Nita Reuter—both vocalists and musicians—and her seven siblings grew up in the former Assumption Parish and St. Ann Parish in Indianapolis. They sang all the time, and were “soaked in music” as children.

“I was born in the Marian year of 1954 so my mother named me Mary Ann,” she said. “I was consecrated to her in the womb, and have always had a great devotion to Mary. As women, we couldn’t have a more perfect role model. I love her so much.”

Karto is a member of a lay apostolate, the Eucharistic Apostles of the Divine Mercy, an outreach of the Marians of the Immaculate Conception order based in Stockbridge, Mass.

“Women have such an important role to play in preparing the world for the second coming of Christ,” she said, as wives, mothers, women religious and lay volunteers in the Church.

“We’re tilling the soil of hearts in order to receive Jesus, which is what Mary did,” Karto said. “She prepared hearts along the way to receive her son, so women, in turn, have that role as well. It’s a very dignified, beautiful calling that we should treasure as women because we just cannot underestimate our role in the Church.”

Karto describes her clear voice as God-given, and her music ministry as a calling from God that began with her spiritual conversion in 1989 while praying in front of the Blessed Sacrament.

At the time, Karto was visiting Catholic musician John Michael Talbot’s Little Portion Hermitage in Berryville, Ark. Talbot is an Indianapolis native and family friend.

She was divorced and remarried outside the Church, and was struggling in her faith journey until she went to confession.

Karto said Franciscan Father Martin Wolter—who founded the Tobit marriage preparation program while ministering at the former Alverna Retreat Center in Indianapolis—heard her confession and asked her to spread the message of Divine Mercy for her penance. That has become her full-time music ministry.

Later, she was able to remarry her second husband, Dave, in the Church. They have four children and eight grandchildren.

Karto’s keynote presentation addressed the conference theme of “Journey in Trust, Called to Trust, Courage to Trust.”

“The hallmark of the Divine Mercy message is trust,” she said. “Our Lady certainly had complete trust in the Father and in his will for her. She never doubted, even when things looked very dark, and continued to say ‘yes’ to God through all of the … sorrowful, joyful, glorious and luminous times in her life and in the life of our Lord.”

Karto said faith-filled women are “vessels of God’s mercy in our families, our parishes and our communities.”

Her CDs titled “Perfect Sacrifice,” “Overshadow Me” and “You Are a Priest Forever” feature songs that promote love for God, eucharistic adoration, the sacraments, Mary, religious vocations, and respect for the sanctity and dignity of life.

The title song on her “Overshadow Me” CD won an award for best liturgical song of the year in the U.S. in 2002, the same year that “I Am Yours,” her song of consecration to the Blessed Mother, won an international award in Guatemala.

Msgr. Lawrence Moran, a retired diocesan priest who was pastor of St. Patrick Parish in Terre Haute for 20 years, was a concelebrant at the conference Mass and stayed to hear Karto’s keynote address and brief concert. He described her song titled “You Are a Priest Forever” as a wonderful tribute to the priesthood.

“I was highly impressed [by her music],” Msgr. Moran said. “She is such a beautiful singer and such a spiritually rooted person. Having known her for some time, I’m so glad that she’s still out there on the front lines spreading the [message of] Divine Mercy. … She’s a light in the darkness, salt of the earth and leaven in the dough.”

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