Juliana Grantz, 17, has been making music for as long as she can remember. And for almost as long, people have been praising his musical talents.
Three years ago, however, she received a compliment that changed the way she thinks about her music, turning Juliana’s passion for singing and songwriting from a hobby into a ministry. Now, this ministry has caught the attention of Catholics from as far away as Milan, Italy, who will feature one of Juliana’s songs in an upcoming celebration of the life of Saint Gianna Beretta Molla.
Auburn teenager puts his musical talents to work ‘singing for Jesus’
The turning point came in 2019 when Juliana, then 14, was at a summer camp for young Catholics. She had just finished performing a song she had written when a missionary approached her.
“He told me that I really had a gift for songwriting and that I really should keep writing and singing for Jesus. I think the words were, ‘For the sake of our church, keep write and sing for Jesus,” recalls Juliana, who is from St. Mary’s Parish in Auburn.
The compliment stood out for Juliana because in praising her voice, most people also suggested ways she could use her talents to achieve secular success through places like NBC’s “The Voice,” a TV singing competition. The missionary made no such suggestion.
“It was just like, ‘Well, you’re really good, but you have to use this for a purpose,'” Juliana said. “That was a really good way to think about it.”
Yet the idea of combining her faith with her passion for music was not new to Juliana.
“It’s been in his heart for a very long time,” said his mother, Deanna Grantz.
The Catholic songwriter started writing and performing at a young age
Juliana started taking piano lessons when she was 6 and started writing songs around the same time, Grantz said.
“I think I just liked the way it sounded, and it was kind of like writing but set to music – writing that you could hear,” Juliana reflected. “That’s pretty cool. It was just something that I really enjoyed doing and I discovered that I had a talent.
Songwriting has also provided Juliana with a way to express herself, especially when it comes to her faith. The songs she wrote were very personal and written from the heart, she said, noting that songwriting is “the way I talk to Jesus.”
“I’m open to writing about anything. I’m sure one day when I get married I’ll write a love song, but…faith is never something I would stray from in my songs,” Juliana said.
“The Holy Spirit works through her when she writes songs,” her mother added.
When she was 11, Juliana joined a group called Perform 4 Purpose, which tours central New York City performing benefit concerts for various causes. Juliana’s involvement with the band helped her hone her performance skills, Grantz said. By 2019, Juliana had become quite comfortable singing in front of an audience, but she didn’t understand the effect her songs had on people until this week at Catholic summer camp.
Once she realized her songs touched people’s hearts, she made it her mission to use her music to spread the message of Jesus, Juliana said.
“It’s kind of my way of being a missionary,” she explained. “There are people who go to preach, there are people who go to different countries. I think the gift that God gave me is to write songs and perform.
Grantz’ song caught the attention of St. Gianna’s family
Although Juliana won’t be traveling to distant lands any time soon, one of her songs has already done so. Several years ago she wrote a song about Saint Gianna, born in 1922 in the town of Magenta in the Archdiocese of Milan, Italy. While researching the lives of saints for a school project, Juliana learned that Saint Gianna, canonized in 2004, was both a pediatrician and a mother of four.
During St. Gianna’s fourth pregnancy, doctors discovered she had a uterine fibroid, but she refused treatment in order to save the life of her unborn child. She died a week after the birth of the child – named Gianna Emanuela Molla.
Juliana felt an immediate affinity for the saint and not only chose her as her confirmation namesake, but wrote “Gianna’s Song” about the saint’s life, love and sacrifice. In 2020, the song caught the attention of St. Gianna’s daughter, who praised it. A video created by Juliana of the song will be screened this month during the celebration of the centenary of the saint’s birth in the Archdiocese of Milan. The video can also be viewed on Juliana’s website, https://julianagrantz.com.
“Just the fact that a completely different country is listening to my music and being touched by it is amazing,” she said.
EDITOR’S NOTE: Faith Profiles highlights Catholics in the Diocese of Rochester of all ages and backgrounds who are role models for living the faith. To suggest someone to profile, email [email protected]
Key words: Faith Profiles