Anyone who has written anything worthwhile knows it normally doesn’t happen with a snap of the fingers.
It takes time. It takes review. It can be painstaking. It includes rewrites. And then more review.
That’s not what happened with “I am here.”
“It’s not my song, this is his song,” said Jim Castello, a lover of all things musical and longtime parishioner at St. Mary of the Assumption in Hockessin.
Castello, now 81, says he was inspired by God – call it divine intervention if you like – to write the hymn in about 10 minutes.
“Songs are back and forth, so much work,” said Castello’s daughter, Lisa Rowan. “This one came so fast and so perfect … he attributed it totally to God.”
Castello has been retired for many years after a career as a successful businessman. It gave him more time to focus on two of his favorites – faith and music. He has played guitar and piano without ever taking formal lessons and he sang with and led choirs for a good portion of his life.
Rowan said Castello wrote “I am here” around 2012 and shared it with friends and family. Among those was Ray Manza, a friend of Castello’s and fellow St. Mary parishioner. They had known each other primarily through Men’s Cornerstone, a Catholic men’s faith retreat.
Manza said Castello had mentioned about a year ago that he wanted to get the song distributed. Manza and some others at the parish connected with musician Matthew A. Jewell, who transcribed and arranged the music.
Rowan had a version of the song recorded as did Manza. They also wanted to have it performed by the choir at St. Mary’s. Father Charles Dillingham, pastor, signed off and the choir sang the hymn as meditation at Mass earlier this year.
“It means a lot to our parish, especially the members of Cornerstone,” Father Dillingham said. “It’s a very uplifting, inspiring song.”
Jim Castello and his wife, Frances, were present when the choir sang the hymn.
“The church … everybody just loved it,” Frances said.
“It’s really powerful,” Rowan said. “The congregation offered applause twice. Everybody was coming up to him saying what a great song that was. I believe God always lets a lot of things happen that are supposed to happen. Hopefully, we’ll get this out there where people can hear and appreciate it.”
With professional recording done, including a version by local cantor Annette McDermott, Rowan and Manza say the next step is to get as many people as possible to hear it and move it into distribution.
“I love it,” Manza said. “I love the story. Everybody that’s taken the time to think about it really loves the song.”
Rowan said Castello has great love for the song. She said her dad has been singing with and leading choirs for years. He made music before but never had another song that he believed was inspired by God.
“I absolutely believe that,” Rowan said. “I just know enough people in music. It’s not an easy process to write a song. It’s not quick like that. I know from the feelings of other people, and the comfort people have … I definitely think it came from God.
“I am Here” lyrics
By James J. Castello
I am here, never fear the darkness of the night.
Turn around, you will see, I am the Way, the Truth, the Light.
I am here by your side, you’re always in my sight,
I will dry all your tears, I am here.
Verse1. Please know, as you go, through the painful times of life,
You are precious, so very precious in my Father’s sight.
So turn around, you will see, I am here look at me
Verse 2. I see you’re angry and confused – lost lonely and very bruised
But in the night, don’t lose sight of my Eternal light.
Turn around, you will see. I am here, look at me.
Verse 3. You will see as you trust in me, the truth will set you free.
Remember My name is your claim to Eternal Life.
Turn around, you will see, I am here look at me.