Meet Gus Labayen

Parish: A Pilgrim Home - What does it mean to live Parish Life?

Bless us with your presence at The Offertory on Monday, February 24 from 7:00 - 8:00PM at St. Rita of Cascia Parish, Tacoma ​

Gus is a Catholic Worker at Guadalupe House in Tacoma and a music minister for St. Vincent de Paul in Federal Way. He has a Bachelors in Piano Performance Music from Central Washington University. His love for music and social justice come together through co-founding the Hilltop Street Choir in "bridging the conversation between the artist, activist, and audience." Stumble upon Gus biking in the rugged outdoors, to relaxing in a hammock, or simply soliciting friends to "enjoy" incredibly spicy hot sauce with him over a meal.

Tell us a bit about yourself.

My name is Gus Labayen and I’ve lived in the South Puget Sound most of my life. I grew up in Everett at St. Mary Magdalene and in Gig Harbor at St. Nicholas Parish, and now live in Tacoma. After studying music and religious studies at Central Washington University, I taught music in Macau, China then went on to discern religious life, mostly with the Benedictines at St. Martin’s Abbey in Lacey. I’ve spent my most recent years at the Tacoma Catholic Worker, cultivating a space to care for the poor here in Pierce County and at St. Vincent de Paul in Federal Way. My recent project is the Hilltop Street Choir, a place for people to connect, sing, and be creative without the barriers of auditioning or literacy in music.

Who or what are influences in your faith journey?

Time with our great historic tradition of church music led me to study pipe organ and chant at monasteries. Singing and playing music that transcends and even hints at Paradise has deepened my faith journey, a very personal journey. This at its best complimented a seeking out of community, but also counteracted a lot of internal work and witnessing in others their struggles, breakthroughs, and faith journey. A couple of years of dating and engagement with my fiancé, Jordan, has brought awe and a continual renewal of being worthy of the Sacrament of Marriage. The stories of being with many people who have been affected by homelessness, and the neighbors on G Street who have built and sustained this community, continue to foster a conversation of affordable housing, employment, and a support network. Though there it is hard in ways to measure success in this work, sometimes a gift of song and being out in the community helps.

Name a time that was challenging in your faith.

At a time, I felt ready to live as a discerning monk at St. Martin’s Abbey. I realized a continual interior urge pulling me towards caring for those less fortunate around me. Though I didn’t have any answers at the time, I left doubting a call to a life of prayer. I could say that it was God’s way of allowing me to take agency in my own self-care and my current establishment of community and family.

What aspects of the Catholic Faith have helped you most to connect with your own personal story?

Experiencing prayer in different contexts, from a Lenten procession of the rosary in four different languages in China, to adoration with Jordan -- I’ve held many things dear. The universality of the Church and its many roots allow me the continual coming back to these practices. However, I’d say the closest time has been the recent Men’s Advent retreat back at the monastery.

In the symbolism provided by the offertory portion of the Mass, we see ourselves giving the work of our hands over to God to be transformed on the altar of His sacrifice. What is your life's work as a gift of self for God and His people?

I desire co-creating with God a world that is safer, creative, and relational. Service has been my life at its root, and in some shape or form, has always been an expression of music -- from the Street Choir to liturgical music. Whether it be through song or grabbing a pint after, I hope to meet you all personally at The Offertory next week.