PROVIDENCE — As dozens of pilgrims prepare to travel from the Diocese of Providence to Krakow, Poland, next week for World Youth Day, one pilgrim, Ryan Tremblay of St. Lucy’s Parish, Middletown, will need to remember to pack his guitar alongside his passport. The 28-year-old Christian recording artist and Rhode Island native was one of only a handful of musicians invited to attend this year’s World Youth Day celebration, and will perform onstage as part of an event expected to draw more than one million attendees from around the world.
“Sometimes I’ll joke around at parishes and I say my world tour consists of Bristol, Cranston, Barrington, Coventry,” said Tremblay, who performs as a full-time music minister for youth at local parishes, during an interview at the chancery last week. “But now, I can say that the world tour is going to Wadowice and Krakow. It sounds like something.”
Tremblay’s career as a Christian recording artist began in 2010 with the release of his first album, “My Life without You.” However, his musical journey began far earlier, when he took drum lessons as a young boy and began performing in a Christian rock band at the age of 13. As he grew older, Tremblay shifted his attention to the secular music scene and studied music at Rhode Island College, where a professor suggested he try his hand at songwriting. It was through songwriting that he solidified the connection between his passion for music and his Catholic faith.
“Once you start writing lyrics, it’s very revealing as to what you’re thinking about, what you’re going through,” he said. “So it opens up this whole emotional and spiritual journey.”
Tremblay will perform at two venues in Krakow and nearby Wadowice during the Youth Festival, the series of events and concerts leading up to Pope Francis’ arrival on July 28. Though as of this week, he was not scheduled to perform at any official papal events, he has not given up hope that he might have the opportunity to share his music ministry with the pontiff.
Pope Francis has already played a major role in the lives of Tremblay and his wife, Elizabeth, blessing their marriage during an audience at the Vatican in 2014. Shortly afterward, and against the predictions of doctors, the couple discovered that Liz would give birth to triplets, a blessing they attribute to the pope’s influence. Now, further established in his music career and raising three healthy baby boys, Tremblay says the opportunity to share his music and story with the man who so greatly impacted his family would be beautiful.
“I suppose I’m a dreamer. I kind of shoot big, and sometimes things might not necessarily go the way that you hope or dream. However, I have found that so many blessings just come from going ahead and shooting big,” he said.
The trip is especially poignant for Tremblay as he travels with the memory of his sister, Erica, who passed away last June after a long fight with breast cancer. Erica learned of her cancer when she was 14 weeks pregnant with her daughter, Ella, and chose to continue the pregnancy despite the additional risk to her own health. On April 29, 2015, she gave birth to a healthy baby girl. Erica passed away a few weeks later.
“Before she passed, she told me, ‘Ryan, I just have a feeling. I know you’ve been wanting to see your music ministry grow. This is going to be your year,’” the singer recalled.
To honor his sister’s memory, Tremblay plans to record a second album, “Trust: An EP for Erica.” He has already arranged with internationally-renowned drummer Steve Gadd and several other professional musicians to take part in the project and is working to raise the $50,000 necessary to cover recording costs. Even more so, however, he hopes to carry Erica’s memory with him in his ministry, sharing her story with youth, including the international audiences he will encounter in Poland.
“That was one of her dreams, she always said she wanted to go on my first tour with me,” said Tremblay. “That’s my whole dream — that she be with me not just in album form, but spiritually.”
Though he is nervous about the stresses of international travel, including flying and leaving his family behind for a week, Tremblay said knowing his sister is watching over him and his family is praying takes away some of the fear.
“That’s perhaps the biggest difference for me between doing the secular music and doing this,” he said. “I feel that peace, I feel that joy, I feel that reason to go ahead and leave my family behind. It’s meaningful beyond face value.”
When he comes home, he looks forward to sharing the experience with the youth of the diocese and continuing to perform at local parishes with Liz, who contributes her vocals to the performances. For Tremblay, whether playing in a small church or before a World Youth Day crowd, music is a form of evangelization and a way of paying witness to his own faith life.
“And to the youthful person sitting in the pew where I was when I was 16, 18 years old, maybe not knowing I had a place in the Church, it can go ahead and show them that they are needed and this is a very real call,” he said.
To hear Ryan Tremblay’s music online, or to learn more about the new album he is producing to honor his late sister Erica’s memory, visit www.ryantremblaymusic.com.