Hillbilly Thomists bring the best of bluegrass to 150th anniversary celebration


PROVIDENCE — Fast tempo talent, high energy vocal harmony and complete joy for the Lord — that’s what The Hillbilly Thomists brought to the stage during their long-awaited evening performance, which showcased and celebrated traditional bluegrass, folk, Gospel and Americana music at the Providence College campus. With certainly something divine in the delivery, fans were treated to an unassuming evening of evangelization through the quick picks of a banjo.
“Music brings the Word to life in important ways,” said Father Kenneth R. Sicard, O.P., President of Providence College, calling the evening, “a performance to remember.”
“They are absolutely outstanding,” said Father Sicard. “Music is one of the joys of my life. Their performance skills are superb and their kinship is inspiring. The collaboration is a beautiful reflection of what we are called to do as Dominicans. It’s a form of preaching. Sharing the good news of the Gospel and nurturing to souls of the faithful yearning to find the truth of Jesus Christ.”
An Evening with The Hillbilly Thomists — a band composed of Dominican friars including two of Providence College’s own chaplains, Father Justin Bolger and Father Peter Gautsch — was held as part of the 150th Anniversary celebration of the Diocese of Providence, co-sponsored by Providence College Campus Ministry.
Father Sicard told those gathered that PC is blessed to be part of this diocese under the leadership of Bishop Thomas J. Tobin.
“The relationship between the college and the diocese is strong and takes many forms. Above all, we are linked by our commitment to Catholic ideals and faith communities that endure.
Bishop Tobin added that the relationship with the college is both strong and vibrant and expressed his gratitude that so many gathered to celebrate. He added that in celebrating the 150th Anniversary of the Diocese of Providence, we have proclaimed that “The Lord has done great things for us and we are filled with joy,” (Ps 126:3).
“’The Lord has done great things for us,’ for 150 years for ourselves and so many generations of faithful Catholics who have come before us,” said Bishop Tobin. “That’s the sense of the anniversary celebration. Indeed we are mindful of all the wonderful, good and beautiful things that the Lord has done for this diocesan church for 150 years.”
The Hillbilly Thomists were well-received by the large and lively crowd gathered at the Peterson Recreation Center Thursday evening. Claps, cheers and whistles gave the Thomists the promising nod that everyone was having a good time.
After playing music together for several years, The Hillbilly Thomists released their eponymous debut album in 2017, which reached #3 on the Billboard Bluegrass chart and mostly consisted of bluegrass standards and Americana favorites. Since then, the friars in the band have been doing what Dominican friars do: contemplating, studying, and preaching. They’ve also been writing songs. The fruit of all this is their new album, “Living for the Other Side,” released on the feast of St. Thomas Aquinas. Recorded at the Alberthaus in the Catskills, and predominantly featuring original songs, the new album is a resonant and at times rollicking meditation on grace, suffering, faith, conversion and the soul’s dogged desire for what really matters. Their third album will be released this spring, followed by a tour this summer.

To learn more about the The Hillbilly Thomists, including how to purchase their latest album, visit www.hillbillythomists.com. Proceeds from album sales, donations and merchandise sales support the formation of friars at the Dominican House of Studies in Washington, D.C., where the Hillbilly Thomists first came together.

For more information about this or upcoming events in celebration of the 150th Anniversary of the Diocese of Providence, visit dioceseofprovidence.org/150.