by Keara Parciak
“I have much more to tell you, but you cannot bear it now.”
He was right. I wasn’t ready.
I wasn’t expecting to hear from David Haas when I did. I had just started a new job; I had just moved out of state and away from home; it had been a few years. I had accepted that I had ruined things when I had asked him for advice on how to get published. I was trying to establish myself as a church musician in a new area, on my own.
When I tried to step back, he would step closer
Back in 2012, as a college sophomore, I attended David Haas’s music camp, Music Ministry Alive!, as a part of the adult track. I missed out on going the year prior with three of my classmates and felt forgotten. I was excited that I got to go. I spent a lot of time in sessions with other adults learning about Vatican II and various doctrines that came out of it. I heard several people speak, including Bishop Barron (before he became a bishop), Fr Michael Joncas, and David Haas. I attended a session on composing with Marty Haugen and discovered I had a knack for it.
The last session for the adults was led by David. It was more geared towards music and Vatican II and I remembered I was more interested in it than the other sessions which were more theology based or had practical applications to church work (which didn’t apply to me at the time). At the final banquet I decided to be brave, introduce myself to David and ask him a clarifying question. My friends had told me that he was weird; that was the word they used. They told me about how he asked students to call him “Papa Bear” and how he was very involved in the youth track. I didn’t know more than that at the time.
I asked him my question and he got very close to me. He was significantly larger than I was and when I tried to step back, he would step closer. He didn’t answer my question. His response was “I’m sorry, I don’t know how to answer that”. I’d later come to know that he had that answer for a lot of the questions I had.
I returned home from MMA, finished college and was preparing to start graduate school the summer of 2014 to get my Masters in Sacred Music. I was told by one of my professors that I had a gift for church music and should really consider pursuing it instead of going forward with my intention of becoming a concert pianist. I was in the airport flying from Paris to meet my family for vacation when I got a Facebook notification: “David Haas has sent you a friend request.”
I was stunned. I didn’t believe it was him, I didn’t think he would remember who I was (as the only time I ever met him was when I asked him a question once at MMA), but I was also kind of honored that an established liturgical composer would friend me (nobody) on Facebook. I accepted it and messaged him “Thanks for the add! I’m an MMA alum of 2012 starting my graduate program in Sacred music & trying to establish myself as a liturgical composer. Hope all is well!”. He immediately messaged me back and said “Good for you, you’ve done well! If you ever need anything, here’s my email” (and then he gave me his personal email). We didn’t really interact all that much. He added me into several of his “secret” facebook groups with names like “Awakenings,” “Praying as living reminders,” and a few others. My college chapel choir director was in those groups also so I didn’t really think anything of it at the time.
The spring semester of my first year of graduate school, I wrote a simple choral piece for my church choir. My composition teacher at the time thought it was really good, and it won an award in my school’s composition competition. I was told by several teachers that it was worthy of being published, and that’s where my journey started. I started at GIA and it was rejected. I was then rejected by OCP, Hope, Paraclete press, and about five other companies; all of whom told me that my piece was good, but it didn’t fit in their catalog. Every time I got rejected, I’d lose hope. I’d write new pieces, my professors would tell me that they were good (as one of my concentrations of my degree was composition) and they’d get rejected. At Westminster Choir College, I had friends who would write pieces that would instantly get picked up by publishers. I was disheartened.
Then I remembered David’s message. I emailed him with a copy of my piece, asked for feedback, and asked if he had any advice on how to get my foot in the door with publishers. I heard nothing. So I Facebook-messaged him, and heard nothing. I tried Facebook calling (video and audio) until finally months went by and he told me to email him. I was angry, and sent a passive aggressive email asking my questions. He told me I wasn’t being kind and asked me to be patient with him. Because I was embarrassed and I am the type of person who feels things very strongly, I deleted his response, my original email and didn’t message him again. I accepted that I ruined any kind of relationship I had with him and resolved to just have him as a Facebook friend.
Things get weird
After I graduated and had been unemployed for a year, I posted on Facebook that I had gotten a job at a church in Virginia and I was moving. Several friends and family members commented congratulations and various things like that. I got a notification that day that there was a new comment…from David Haas. It said “Congrats to you”. I liked the comment and thought I would be polite and respond, so I said “Thanks David! They’re big fans of yours down there”. He said “Oh. Sorry about that.” A few minutes later he wrote back “Let me know if you ever need anything” which I thought was very nice. I wondered if maybe I hadn’t ruined things after all. I wrote back “Will do! I’ll see you at NPM! I signed up for your session.” He wrote back “Oh boy..I better be good.” I thought that was weird, but that just fit in with what my friends had said about him being weird. There wasn’t much interaction after that.
In June of 2017, I attended the National Association of Pastoral Musicians (NPM) convention in Cincinnati. This was the first time that I had ever been to an NPM convention. I had been able to push my start date of my new job back so I could attend and I had submitted a piece to be read and critiqued at the new music review that was accepted. I went alone.
I went to register that first day and ran into David. I asked him how he was and he gave me a very strange answer which I can’t remember. We talked casually for five minutes, then he said “I’ll see you around,” and I left.
I attended a session he did on one of his song collections, “Cry out with joy.” I waited after with a group of women (it happened to be all women) to ask a question. He stood next to me in the group and said “Gimme some love.” Then pulled me in close and kissed me on the cheek. I didn’t think anything of it at the time, other than that it was more of him being weird.
When I then asked him a professional question, he seemed really put off by it and acted like he didn’t know how to answer it.
Later, I ran into him and Lori True in the exhibit hall at a table for MMA, where he said hello to me. I stopped and asked if I had to bring a student with me in order to attend MMA’s adult track again, and they both answered yes. I continued on my way. The convention ended, that was the extent of my interactions with David.
“I had a dream about you”
I started my job a few weeks after I had returned, as a Director of Music and Liturgy at a fairly large Catholic Church. Prior to that, David had messaged me on Facebook saying that it was really good seeing me at NPM, and that if I ever needed anything to reach out. He wished me good luck on my new job. It seemed innocuous at the time, and I thanked him for saying that. The conversation ended there.
A few months later, I decided on a whim to share a collection of Facebook photos called “June Memories”. It was all of the photos I had taken in Cincinnati at the NPM convention and when I had some time to myself prior to the start of the convention. After sharing the photos, I went to my apartment complex’s summer pool party in hopes of trying to meet people my age. I was sitting at the pool scrolling on my phone when I got a Facebook notification that David had commented on my post: “nice.” That was what he wrote. That was all he wrote, and apparently that was all it took. I commented back “Thanks! Hope all is well.” Then it started.
He messaged me, “Bless you, hope you’re doing well. I think about you a lot. I had a dream about you and I have to tell you about it some time, but not now. You’re not ready.” I thought that was weird. There’s a passage in the book of John where Jesus tells the disciples that there is much he needs to tell them but they cannot bear it; they’re not ready.
I was confused but at the same time, I was enticed and wanted to know more. The full gospel citation reads “when he comes the spirit of truth will present everything you need to know through me.” It seemed like David was comparing himself to Jesus, telling me that God would bestow on him what I needed to know. It seemed like he had that power. I didn’t know that it was about to get sexual.
He continued the conversation, asking me questions about different things. Then, he asked me what I would wear if I went dancing. I thought that was a weird question to ask. I called my mom at that point and said that David Haas was being weird. She said to just ignore him.
But I was afraid of what he could do to me if I ignored him. I continued the conversation. I said a black dress. I’m a musician. That’s the majority of what I wear. He said, “I think that’s great, I would have said the same thing for you, except short and low cut and tight. That’s how I saw you in my dream. I can’t tell you the rest. You’re not ready.”
He then started telling me about this dream. It was a slow, drawn-out conversation. He told me we went in a limo dancing, he told me what I would wear, and every phrase ended with “I can’t tell you more, you’re not ready”. He would work things out of me until he decided I was “ready.” After a while, when he said we got back to the limo in his dream, he said, “And then I started kissing you softly.”
That line will haunt me. I felt my skin crawl. I locked my phone and turned it upside down on the table. I wanted to throw it into the pool. I read that line and reread it several times because I couldn’t believe that it was real. I called my mom and said “David Haas just made a pass at me.” I didn’t know what to do. I didn’t know how to respond, and I didn’t respond for a long time.
He messaged me a while later and said “are you still there” to which I responded, “yeah, just don’t know how to respond to that.”
Then he wrote, “Does it make you want to scream in pleasure or recoil in disgust?”
I wrote, “It makes me want to turn my head in confusion.”
After that, it was like I had done something horrible by rejecting him. I started thinking I had caused this. He was the third person to sexually harass me. I didn’t know if me rejecting him would be detrimental to my career, but I was afraid of retaliation at that point. He then started going on about how he shouldn’t have said anything and then said, “I know I’m bald, fat and ugly, but I can’t help myself. You’re so beautiful.”
I responded, “It’s not that, I just don’t see you in that way.” He carried on for a while, making me seem like the bad guy for rejecting his advances. Eventually, he said, “Promise me we’ll still be friends,” and I said “of course” with a smiley face. I thought if I said no, there would be backlash.
He then begged me not to tell anyone that he said this or about this conversation, and I promised him I wouldn’t. He asked if we could talk again soon, and I said sure. The conversation ended. I felt violated, used and betrayed. I didn’t know how to go forward.
I Had to Run
I spent a very long time wondering what I had done to cause this, if I had said something or done something to bring this on. This also wasn’t the first time something like this had happened. I thought that this was just the way God saw things for me. Knowing how I am and knowing that I would scrutinize the messages, I deleted them and blocked him on Facebook.
I questioned whether or not I was the only one. I googled him for months trying to see if anything came up. When the #metoo movement started shortly after that, I continued to look him up. I regretted deleting the messages (the only proof I had) and tried as hard as I could to get them back. After a while, I gave up and decided to try to put it behind me. People continued to tell me to “let it go,” and I tried as hard as I could.
In 2018 I attended the NPM convention with five members of my choir. Most of them knew what had happened. The first day we attended a concert that he played at and I started to feel sick. That night, we went to the exhibit hall and walked around. I saw he was there but was with people and he didn’t see me at the time.
Later, my choir members and I ran into some people that we knew and went to a booth that was having a giveaway. David was at the booth. He made eye contact with me and started moving closer. My heart sank. I felt panic, as though I needed to run. One of the people with me, who knew what David had done to me, told me I should stay, and that they would help me. But my instinct was telling me to get away from him, fast.
I started to walk away. I walked to the other side of the hall, and saw that he was following me. Then I ran as fast as I could.
Later, when I left the convention hall with two people from my group, they said, “Next time stay with us. We could have helped you.” Instantly, I felt like I had done something wrong. My body responded with a panic attack. At that moment, I felt like I was at fault for not wanting to have an interaction with David. I felt as though I should have been braver, and that my instinct to run away from him came from weakness.
I have since learned otherwise. My instinct to run away from David Haas wasn’t weakness; it was my body responding to threat, and protecting me. David is a sexual predator and a spiritual abuser, and he never should have had the kind of power that he had. And I have more bravery than I ever realized.