In 2010, after Founder and Director Jessica Abejar gave a performance of her choreographic piece Mother, her own mom turned to her and said she was a “moving prayer.” Since then, the name has stuck.
Up until that moment, Jessica had been dancing and choreographing for over 10 years but never really knew how dance would play a big role in her life. After graduating summa cum laude with a degree in Business and a minor in Performing Arts from the College of Mount Saint Vincent, Jessica hoped to begin her career in arts administration. She was shocked to find that her first job offer would be as a performer for her dream company – Disney!
It was there she became reacquainted with her dreams, where literally at every turn, someone told her to pursue them. She also realized that fulfillment could be found when she completely surrendered her entire being to something bigger than herself. At that time in her life, she believed there were two things that could live up to such an experience – one was making magic for families for one of the biggest entertainment companies in the world and the other was sacred dance. So after enjoying a short career with Disney Cruise Lines, Jessica came home to pursue sacred and liturgical dance. And within a few months or so, she went on to make another dream come true!
In 2013 Jessica’s work in sacred dance began gaining momentum. That year, she fulfilled another childhood dream and performed Mother at World Youth Day in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. While making her dreams come true was in and of itself a major turning point, the other events at World Youth Day made her aware of her true calling.
Jessica saw dance everywhere in Rio. She recalled her experience in Martha Ann Kirk’s article in the National Catholic Reporter:
I was there on Copacabana Beach! There & throughout the activities at World Youth Day, dance is much alive in the church! I saw it at morning Catechesis with my Brazilian brothers & sisters, with the South Africans during offertory at our Catechesis mass, throughout all the main events, & even in the streets of Rio as young pilgrims from all over the world danced ‘samba para Cristo!’ The Catholic Church is alive! Dance is a part of the new evangelization! There is a song in our hearts and the Holy Spirit that moves us!
Jessica discovered that sacred dance was more than just ballet-like dancing in flowy dresses to Christian songs. Sacred dance was also in pantomiming, animation, samba, tribal dances, cultural dances, flashmobs, pilgrimages, exercise, pop music, hip hop, and much, much more. Jessica realized that dance had a lot to offer in the realms of art, fitness, and prayer, and she wanted to make sure people knew that.
She discovered that her call moved beyond performance. Seeing herself and others make the physical pilgrimage to Copacabana Beach during World Youth Day made her realize that a holy life is much more than just being spiritual; it is also about being physically and mentally healthy. It was during that time she developed her belief that in order to be holy, one must involve the whole self. She truly believed that she could be of service to the world through movement, emphasizing the need to nurture and uplift the mind, body, and spirit of every person. In this way, she wanted to help others better themselves so they can better the world. And so The Moving Prayer was born.