November 25, 2011

Roncalli senior sings before thousands, lives dream of being ‘Called to Glory’

By John Shaughnessy

Francesca “Chessie” LaRosaOn any other day, the three marriage proposals would have been the most memorable experiences for Francesca “Chessie” LaRosa.

But Nov. 18 wasn’t just another day in the life of the 18-year-old senior at Roncalli High School in Indianapolis. This was a day when even her longtime dream didn’t compare to the incredible reality of singing in front of 23,000 people at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis during the National Catholic Youth Conference.

Just two days before, Francesca had received notice that she would be singing the ballad version of the conference’s theme song, “Called to Glory,” during the morning session on Nov. 18.

Just one day before, during a rehearsal, she had also learned that she wouldn’t be sitting at a piano while she sang—a revelation that made her “terrified” because playing the piano while she sings has always been an emotional comfort to her. Instead, she was told, she would be singing on the center stage, just her and a microphone.

Yet as Francesca—who had never previously performed in front of more than 500 people—walked on stage to sing before 23,000 people, she found a perfect way to calm her nerves. She decided to sing for just one person.

“I was terrified because my piano is my crutch,” said Francesca, a member of St. Barnabas Parish in Indianapolis. “I had to wing it because I was standing up. I focused on singing directly to Jesus. That made me feel better.”

So did the support of her friends and family in the audience. Her Roncalli friends held up signs encouraging her. Her parents, Dr. Joseph and Chris LaRosa, whispered prayers that God would be with her in this moment. Her grandparents—Joe and Dee LaRosa, and Jack and Shirley Carroll—felt, once again, the special love that binds grandparents and their grandchildren.

The crowd swayed as Francesca sang. Many youths started to sing with her. And when her performance ended, the audience erupted in cheers.

“My wife and I were crying,” her father said. “There was so much energy. She just had a lot of presence. From a parent standpoint, it was like, ‘Wow!’ The Holy Spirit has given her so many opportunities, and she’s used her gifts for other people.”

Hours after her performance, Francesca still rode the emotional wave of her moment in the spotlight.

“I don’t even have words right now,” she said. “It was such an amazing experience. My dream was to become a singer and share the word of God in music with people. It didn’t matter to me that there were 23,000 people. I wanted to touch just one.”

Her singing created a new group of fans who, throughout the day, asked her for her autograph, bought her CD and told her that they think she will make it “big” in the future.

Her performance also apparently had a strong effect on at least three young men who each proposed to her during the day.

“I had three guys kneeling on the ground, professing their love for me,” Francesca said with a shy laugh. “They asked me to marry them. I told them I’m just 18.”

Eighteen and living her dream of singing for God’s glory.

“I never thought I’d sing in front of so many people doing what I love,” she said. “This has just been the best day.” †


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