All Are Welcome: Dangca Meets Students Where They Are; Guides Gonzaga Hymn

Daniel Dangca, senior coordinator of Liturgical Life in University Ministry.
Daniel Dangca beside a piece Tony Alonso dedicated to Dangca titled “Ubi Caritas.”

December 05, 2023
Dale Goodwin ('86 M.A.T.) | Spirit Newsletter

Daniel Dangca is one of those folks on campus who greets others with a warm, authentic welcome. You belong. You matter.

That comes from his own ceaseless desire to belong.

He belongs at Gonzaga, where he serves as senior coordinator of Liturgical Life in University Ministry.

Dangca is not only a light to his colleagues in the office, but a bright star to students, staff and faculty who revel in his energy, enthusiasm and passion when they attend one of his liturgies on campus.

“He inspires me because he helps students as they pursue their spiritual paths, meeting them wherever they are in that journey,” says Rev. Janeen Steer, co-director of Mission Engagement. “He enriches their lives, whether it’s at Rudolf Fitness Center lifting weights or in the Chapel for Sunday night Mass.

“But he is a really talented musician and he could just orchestrate the music and liturgies and call it good. But that spiritual stewardship with students is equally important to him.”

He gets his energy from students: “Their spirit does more for my energy than any caffeinated beverage could ever do,” he says.

Where the River Flows

Dangca was called upon in a big way in 2020 when then-Vice President for Mission Integration, Michelle Wheatley – who had just returned from an AJCU conference in which several fellow Jesuit universities’ commissioned hymns had been played – asked him to commission a Gonzaga hymn, a piece we could call our own, representing who we are as people and epitomizing our Jesuit heritage.

Daniel Dangca orchestrating at Gonzaga.
Dangca at the premier of "Where the River Flows."

The well-connected Dangca’s first call was to Tony Alonso at Emory University in Atlanta. A liturgical composer for GIA, a Catholic music publishing company, Alonso was commissioned to craft a responsorial song for Pope Francis’ visit to the United States in 2015.

Alonso was intrigued by the idea and began learning as much as he could about Gonzaga, its community and Spokane.

The wheels were turning. Dangca organized a committee of students, faculty and staff to craft notes about this community and who we are, “recognizing we revere our land and the spiritual emphasis on Spokane, our area Tribes, our Jesuit identification, and our place as an educational institution,” he says.

“Tony Alonso, without ever stepping foot in Spokane, took our notes and wrote the lyrics, inspired by Psalm 46 and Ezekiel 47: 1-9, recognizing the Spokane River as the spiritual embodiment of this place,” hence the title of the hymn, “Where the River Flows.” It premiered at Commencement Mass in 2023.

“Our hope is that this piece is played at all large university liturgies, just as the Gonzaga Fight Song is played at many sporting events,” Dangca says. “This is a liturgical response to our liturgical mission as a Jesuit university. It is the musical embodiment of what our community believes and what we aspire to be in the world. A place where all are welcome.”

As Dangca prepares for this most spiritual time of the year, Christmas, he is reminded that the gift of family, friends and loved ones is more valuable than anything that is under the tree.

“Christmas reminds me of the great mystery that Jesus was not born in a palatial setting; rather, in a manger among animals, and we are all called to humility.”

Merry Christmas, heri Kwanzaa,
Hanukkah semeach.

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