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Catholic family band makes tour stop at east Gainesville church

A retiree from UF Health Shands Hospital glided past an aisle of chairs toward the back of the social hall, acquiring the room she needed to extend her arms in praise. A pair of University of Florida professors clapped along to a song with their two children. Other parishioners were up on their feet, swaying to the live music.

A portion of Gainesville’s Catholic community experienced the concert Sunday night without paying a cent.

MJM7, a Catholic family band from Effingham, Illinois, was started in 2012 by Michael James Mette, a 44-year-old musician. Mette and his wife Michelle have eight children, three of whom are currently part of MJM7: 16-year-old Charity, 15-year-old Cecilia and 13-year-old Michael James II, nicknamed MJMJ. The children play a variety of instruments from cello to drums and synthesizer.

“The two building blocks that we have are very simple, but they’re very powerful: music and testimony,” Michael James Mette said. “Everybody loves music, and everybody loves stories.”

Najwa Liscombe, 68, has been a parishioner at St. Patrick for more than 40 years and has seen every MJM7 performance at the church. She is now retired but used to work at Shands.

“I love the music, I love the family and I love this church,” Liscombe said. “Anything I can do to support this beautiful Catholic family is my pleasure.”

The name of the band is Mette’s initials and the number seven, the symbolically perfect number in Christianity. Mette referenced the seven days of creation in the Book of Genesis along with seven Sacraments in the Catholic Church.

“The epitome of my creation is my family,” Mette explained. “This is like the perfection of me as an artist.”

Sara Ragan, the director of Catechesis of the Good Shepherd at St. Patrick Catholic Church, said the event brings the biggest turnout among the church’s concerts, with around 70 attendees this year. Before the pandemic, the record number for MJM7 was over 200, Ragan said.

St. Patrick has an older parishioner base with members in their 70s and 80s, but this concert brings out a mixed crowd, she said. MJM7 has performed for St. Patrick Interparish School in the past as well, so families from the school attend, too.

“We’ve got some older parishioners who come year after year – even though it’s more of a rock show, they love seeing the Catholic family up there,” Ragan said. “The parishioners love seeing those kids grow up, seeing them on stage and doing so much good in the world.”

She was formerly the youth minister at St. Patrick, which is how she met Mette. They both attended a youth ministers’ conference in Orlando in 2012, where she went to one of his workshops. He then offered to come play a concert at St. Patrick, all for “free-will donations” as the band puts it.

“Just being on the east side and not as an affluent parish, the price was perfect,” she said.

In 2019, MJM7 performed at Panama’s World Youth Day, a gathering of millions of Catholic youth and young adults. Pope Francis was in attendance. Still, MJM7 chooses to perform at St. Patrick every year since 2012, only missing 2018 because of a snowstorm messing up the band’s schedule in Illinois. St. Patrick is the parish they’ve played at the most.

“It’s [St. Patrick] such a diverse community,” Mette said, comparing it to the “salt of the earth” in the Gospel of Matthew. He said it’s like a Thanksgiving dinner where people catch up on what’s happened since they last saw each other.

Cecilia Mette, who gave Sunday’s testimony and played the synthesizer, shared the sentiment.

“There’s a handful of parishes like this that we go to every year, and it’s so much fun because you know the priest, you know the parish ministers and you know the families,” she said.

Unlike the music a traditional Catholic Mass would have, MJM7’s performances take advantage of contemporary equipment like smoke machines and flashing lights. Michael James Mette was able to build and program his own lights using knowledge from his service in the Air Force after high school.

“I don’t think anybody else in the Catholic Church is doing this,” Mette said.

Another participant in MJM7’s performances at St. Patrick is Jason Hickman, 37, who joined in for a few songs on the bongos. He grew up around the parish and has been playing the drums at its 11 a.m. Sunday Mass for decades.

“The Mette family has been an incredible influence on this church,” Hickman said. “Ever since they’ve been here, they have definitely lightened up this parish.”

The family travels in a Ford Transit van, purchased with money from the first donation to nonprofit Mette Family Ministries, a way for donors to support the family’s touring and experiences. Based on ProPublica’s Nonprofit Explorer, almost $72,000 was donated to Mette Family Ministries in 2022.

“100% of what we’ve had over the last 12 years has been from donations,” Mette said. “Like St. Paul says, a workman’s worth his wage, but also, what I get for free I want to give for free. There could be a tendency to say we only want to play wealthy, suburban parishes, but that’s maybe not where the ministry needs to be the most.”

MJM7 projects to play 50 concerts this year, performing practically every weekend in different parts of the country. That brings the band’s total to around 700 concerts since its inception.

When he first started, Mette was going for “Nirvana and Smashing Pumpkins meets the Eucharist.”

Now, it’s evolved into a family band performance, and he wouldn’t have it any other way.

“We're going to bring the party,” Mette said. “I have my posse with me, and it’s like always having your backup with you.”

Those interested in donating to Mette Family Ministries or looking into MJM7’s upcoming tour dates can learn more on the band’s website.

Brooke is a reporter for WUFT News who can be reached by calling 352-392-6397 or emailing