A Song of Salvation

Threads link shrine-recorded CD to a saint and possible future saint.

Msgr. Joseph Hirsch's CD is now available by popular demand after showings on EWTN.
Msgr. Joseph Hirsch's CD is now available by popular demand after showings on EWTN. (photo: Courtesy of Shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe in La Crosse, Wis.)
Less than two weeks ago, the Shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe in La Crosse, Wis., received 1,000 audio CDs it had made of a song from a music video called The Salvation Poem.
“We put it on YouTube, and the video’s producers gave it to EWTN,” Jack Socha told me. Socha, who works in the communications department at the shrine and does a radio show for the La Crosse Diocese, said EWTN has been airing the music video on occasion for more than a year.
Once viewers saw the short video of Msgr. Joseph Hirsch, a priest with the La Crosse Diocese, singing The Salvation Poem, they began phoning in about it from all over the country. As they continued to call, the shrine decided to put the song from the video out as a single audio CD.
It all started because the people associated with The Salvation Poem's music and lyrics,  Matt and Sherry McPherson, came to know of Msgr. Hirsch. They asked for permission to use the shrine church as the setting to make a music video of the monsignor, who accompanies himself on the guitar as well as sings in both English and Spanish.
Socha pointed out that this was the only music video ever done inside the church at the shrine.
“By popular demand, we have professionally produced an audio single, taken from the video and enhanced it for even higher quality,” Socha said.
But Socha also sees hopes for an originally unplanned second "bonus."
Since 2013, Msgr. Hirsch has been the director of the Casa Hogar Juan Pablo II Orphanage in Lurin, a district of the Lima province of Peru.
It was founded in March 1986 by Father Joe Walijewski, another priest of the La Crosse Diocese, the year after he received a $50,000 check from the pope, now St. John Paul II, to build Casa Hogar.
Father Walijewski, or Father Joe, as he was known and called, spent his priesthood not just in the La Crosse Diocese, but also as a missionary to Bolivia, where he built a church, and then Peru.
Socha said while walking one night in Lima, Father Joe found orphans, which prompted him to build the orphanage.
In a way, it was a dream long time coming. As a youngster, Father Joe had been inspired watching the 1938 film Boys Town and naturally admired its hero, Father Edward Flanagan. His vision was to do the same.
For 14 years, Father Joe lived his vision as he ran Casa Hogar. In the year 2000, at the age of 76, he turned over the directorship to another priest from the La Cross Diocese.
Today, 64 children call Casa Hogar Juan Pablo II home. It uses a family program based on the famous Boys Town methods. As Casa Hogar’s website explains, it has become “a leader in the treatment and care of orphaned, abandoned and abused children of Peru.”
The program gives “kids a safe and loving family environment in which to live, an education and vocational formation, as well as a faith-filled ambiance where they can learn and instill the values of God.”

The outstanding holiness of the founder and his work gained Church recognition on March 19, 2013, the feast of St. Joseph, at La Crosse’s Cathedral of St. Joseph the Workman. On that day, Bishop William Callahan opened the cause for beatification and canonization of Father Joseph Walijewski.

Today, Socha envisions that the The Salvation Poem CD can somehow benefit the mission and the orphans.
“We hope that groups running donation campaigns for the orphanage in Peru might use these CDs as thank-you gifts for donations,” Socha said.
“Lots of good is coming out of a little song that runs two and a half minutes.”
Ordering information: People can purchase the CD for $2.95, plus shipping, from Our Lady of Guadalupe Gift Shop either online or by calling (608) 782-5440 or (877) 799-4059.