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 CNS Story:

EDITOR-SONG Apr-23-2003 (640 words) With photo. xxxn

Catholic newspaper's editor writes song to pray for deployed troops

By Catholic News Service

PEORIA, Ill. (CNS) -- Tom Dermody, editor in chief of The Catholic Post, Peoria's diocesan newspaper, freshened up a 2-year-old song he had originally written as an homage to his mother with a new verse recognizing U.S. troops deployed in Iraq -- and it has become a hit in central Illinois.

"I'll Pray You Home" has sold 800 copies in less than three weeks since the song was first played April 4 on a Peoria radio station. Two Peoria-area service organizations are including the CD in "care packages" being shipped to Iraq.

The song has merited mention on the front page of the Peoria Journal-Star, the city's daily newspaper, and two of the area's television stations.

Dermody had written "I'll Pray You Home" to remember his late mother, Ruth, a longtime church organist at St. Mary Parish in Trenton, in the Diocese of Belleville, who died in 2001. The first two verses tell of her prayer ritual of lighting a candle when her children were out late or traveling.

With the prospect of war with Iraq looming, a niece suggested that Dermody revisit the song with an eye toward U.S. troops overseas. Within an hour, Dermody had a new third verse: "In a country half a world away with bombs exploding near, the soldiers who risk all today are sons and daughters dear," adding that, as his mother had, a million people would be lighting candles and praying for their safe return.

He sang the reworked tune at a studio in nearby East Peoria, with help from studio owner Gary Nabors, who played keyboards and added strings to the arrangement.

"I can really identify with this song. It really touched my heart!" said Donna Gillespie of OSF HealthPlans, the Franciscan-run medical service center in Peoria.

"There are several of us here at OSF HealthPlans that have family members and close friends who are in the military," she told The Catholic Post. "We have been putting care packages together from the 'wish lists' of our soldiers. One of the items asked for was CDs, so I though it would be nice to include them in our care packages."

Dermody was to perform "I'll Pray You Home" at an April 27 citywide troop support rally in downtown Peoria. He also was asked by the Barnes & Noble bookstore in Peoria to sing it May 3 inside the store -- and to come up with an hour's worth of material.

He is gratified at the song's reception but finds it a mixed blessing.

"While I'm excited that the song is being well received, my enthusiasm is tempered by the deadly seriousness of the song's subject -- war," Dermody said in a statement.

"And while I have no doubt in the power of prayer to our loving God, there is also mystery involved. In this case, I'm well aware of and sensitive to prayerful families who lost loved ones in the war," he said.

Dermody has been editor in chief of The Catholic Post for 10 years, and on its staff for 24. But he has been writing songs for 25 years.

Among his compositions are "Peoria Pride," performed regularly by the city's symphony orchestra and municipal band; a hymn, "His Will Is Our Peace," based on the episcopal motto of Bishop Daniel R. Jenky of Peoria; and "Bowl Me Over," a collection of 10 country songs with bowling analogies released in 1997.

- - -

Editor's Note: Copies of "I'll Pray You Home" are $5 each. Shipping and handling are $2 for the first CD and $1 for each additional CD purchased. Half of the proceeds of each CD sold goes to Peoria Area Troop Support. The CD can be purchased at the song's Web site, www.prayhome.com, or by writing to: 4929 N. Woodview Ave., Peoria, IL 61614.


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