Online student from South has gospel in her family tree
By Rachelle Reeves
Special to GCU Today
Catherine Herron awoke in 2006 in the darkness of her Mississippi home.
She felt the voice of God encouraging her to write a gospel song. Another night, Herron said, God urged her to write a book about faith.
The experiences led Herron, a Grand Canyon University online graduate student, to publish “Not Your Journey but Your Destiny” and to release her first gospel CD, “God Never Fails,” earlier this year.
While she grew up singing in her family churches and developed her soulful gospel voice as a child through youth music programs in her native Chicago, Herron wondered if God had the right writer in mind.
“‘Oh Lord, you’ve made a mistake,'” Herron recalled thinking. “‘I don’t know anything about writing a book.’ But God wouldn’t let me go to sleep and He was very persistent.”
Chicago is known for its roots in music stemming from the Great Migration, the period after the turn of the 20th century when African-Americans brought the music of blues and jazz from the South to Northern industrial cities where they hoped to find work. After Herron married, she moved her family to Mississippi to care for her grandparents — bringing her love of gospel to the South.
Herron, a mother of two who works as an administrative assistant for the Hattiesburg Public School District, said GCU’s online program through the Ken Blanchard College of Business provided her the chance to maintain her interests while working toward a master’s in business administration with an emphasis on leadership.
“Whatever road God leads me on, I want to be successful,” Herron said. “GCU has helped me do this without a lot of stress and making the online atmosphere open and friendly.”
Herron said her book is a biographical portrayal of her late mother and spiritual lessons learned from her sudden death. Avienell La Vern Armstrong-Patterson was 27 when she died in the arms of a pastor from an apparent heart attack.
“I think that’s what has just carried on in my life, along with my mother’s heart for singing,” she said. “It’s in my blood to sing.”
Herron and her husband, the Rev. Robert Herron, opened a church in the den of their home nine years ago. The congregation developed into what is now the New Fellowship Baptist Church in Hattiesburg.
Despite working at the University of Southern Mississippi for 12 years and serving seven years in Mississippi public schools as an administrative assistant, Herron said she focused on an MBA over an education degree. The affable singer-songwriter felt her degree would help her reach others through Christian media.
Chris Rock, a GCU online enrollment counselor, said he was skeptical about how Herron’s busy schedule with church and gospel choirs might impact her studies. But she emerged as a top student.
“She’s that model student, not just in the classroom, but in her community, too,” said Rock, adding that Herron helped her Hattiesburg neighbors recover from a February tornado that leveled parts of the city.
Herron, too, knows about skepticism. But she heard the call from God and is looking forward to using her degree to spread the Good News.
Contact Rachelle Reeves at firstname.lastname@example.org. Catherine Herron’s CD “God Never Fails” is available on iTunes, Amazon.com and eMusic. Her book, “Not Your Journey but Your Destiny,” is available on Amazon.com, Barnesandnoble.com