JPII student celebrates his faith through his passion for music
By Michael Gresham
The Texas Catholic
At the end of each Mass, as he holds a long and reverberating organ note, Jimmy Hademenos looks upward quietly thanking God for the blessings and gifts he’s received in his life.
“This is just all a gift from God,” said Hademenos, a junior at John Paul II High School in Plano. “I put everything into that final chord and say thank you to God. Thank you for everything you’ve given me. Thank you for this moment. It’s just this immense joy as I can feel his love for me through what I do for him. It’s just a beautiful moment.”
Hademenos’ musical talents and volunteer heart have endeared him to many faith communities across the Diocese of Dallas. He plays the organ for Masses every Saturday and Sunday at his home parish of St. Bernard of Clairvaux. For the 11 a.m. Sunday Mass, he also is responsible for choosing the music and directing the choir. In addition, he plays in the contemporary teen band at St. Monica Catholic Church at 5 p.m. on Sundays. Hademenos also provides piano and organ music for all school Masses at JPII, something he has done since his sophomore year.
“It’s something I truly love,” Hademenos said. “For me, music is how I give back. It is how I celebrate my faith. I pray to God through my music every single time I play.”
Hademenos had always been active in his faith community while a student at St. Monica Catholic School, serving as an altar server and participating in the school choir. In the seventh grade, he began playing the organ for the choir during school Masses.
“I grew up watching my father playing the piano every single Sunday during Mass at St. Bernard,” he said of his father, Nick Hademenos. “I could see how much joy he found in playing during the Mass. I could see how much it meant to him. And I wanted to follow in his footsteps.”
Hademenos then connected with Emmanuel Espiritu, then a teacher at St. Monica who led the school choir.
“He really drew me into music,” Hademenos said, adding that it was Espiritu who helped him begin performing piano for Masses. “I didn’t really want to sing with the choir anymore so I told him. So, he said he’d teach me to play the piano to accompany the choir.”
“Working with Jimmy over the years has been one of the most wonderful random things to ever happen to me,” said Espiritu, who now serves as the head choir director at JPII as well as directs the contemporary teen band Hademenos performs with at St. Monica. “If you had told me five years ago that I’d be working with Jimmy and mentoring him in this capacity right now, I’d say you were crazy. Having a student that I can help guide for such a long period of time is something really special and I try not to take it for granted every day.”
Around that same time he began playing for his student peers at St. Monica, Hademenos had the opportunity to play the organ at St. Bernard as well. At first, he accompanied the children’s choir, but overtime more opportunities arose.
“I realized that I really loved this. I loved being able to give back to my school and to my parish,” Hademenos said. “It was a song here and a song there, but my confidence was growing. I loved every minute of it.”
Then midway through his eighth-grade year, the COVID-19 pandemic led to Catholic schools in the Diocese of Dallas to move to remote learning models and parishes to close their doors. It appeared Hademenos’ Mass performances would be placed on hiatus. However, as it often does, necessity sparked inspiration and his home parish of St. Bernard of Clairvaux called on Hademenos for his musical talents.
“They needed an organist to accompany the nuns singing for the livestream Mass,” Hademenos explained. “So, I started working with them, doing every Saturday and Sunday Mass. Of course, there was no one in the pews, but it was still just such a wonderful experience.”
Hademenos admitted he was a bit nervous at first. That quickly faded, though.
“I was a 13-year-old playing the organ for thousands of people watching a livestream Mass. I was nervous, but my dad told me that once I started playing, I’d realize I could do it,” he said. “It was then that I realized I actually love playing for God and playing for the people.”
Through his growing music ministry, Hademenos has had the opportunity to participate in several special Masses, including serving as the main organist for St. Bernard’s Christmas Eve and Easter Vigil Masses since 2020, pianist and cantor at a Mass celebrated by Bishop Edward J. Burns during the 2022 diocesan teacher in-service session, main organist for the opening Mass for all diocesan schools concelebrated by Bishop Burns and Auxiliary Bishop Greg Kelly, main keyboardist for the ABLAZE Retreat at St. Paul the Apostle Catholic Church in Richardson, main keyboardist for the Diocesan Newlywed Mass in 2021, main organist at the 2022 JPII Baccalaureate Mass at St. Francis of Assisi Catholic Church in Frisco, and main organist for St. Bernard of Clairvaux’s 75th anniversary Mass celebrated by Bishop Burns.
In addition to playing the piano and organ at JPII, Hademenos is also involved with campus ministry, peer ministry, praise-and-worship, and serves as a school ambassador. At the school, his passion for music continues to grow under the tutelage of Espiritu.
“Because of him, because of his devotion to music, I’ve decided that I really would love to study music throughout my life,” he said. “I want to come back to JPII. I want to teach as well. I want to inspire others to love their music and their faith.”
“I think the thing that makes Jimmy special is his willingness to serve,” Espiritu said. “Our motto at JPII is ‘Seek to Serve’ and Jimmy lives that every single day. He doesn’t have to play our St. Monica Mass. He doesn’t have to play piano for the JPII choir. He volunteers for them — he volunteers for every event I’ve ever asked him to do. That’s really special for a young man to have such a servant heart.”
For his service to the St. Bernard community, Hademenos was nominated by the parish’s pastor, Father Luis Prado, for a 2023 Bishop’s Award for Service, which he received during a special Mass celebrated by Bishop Burns on Jan. 21 at the Cathedral Shrine of the Virgin of Guadalupe. While he called receiving the accolade humbling, Hademenos said his passion and service are simply a reflection of his great love for his faith.
“My faith wouldn’t be where it is today without me being able to play every Saturday and Sunday at Masses,” Hademenos said. “My Catholic faith has been strengthened in so many ways because of my music.
“My love for God is rooted in that faith,” he added. “And that love comes through in my music.”