By Tonya Whitaker
Inside The Pew

Based on the success Cullen Jones has displayed in swimming, one would find it hard to believe he almost drowned at Dorney Park and Wildwater Kingdom in Allentown, Penn., when he was 5 years old. But, Jones turned the horrific event into a positive. He learned how to swim, and 20-plus years later, he became a gold-medal winning swimming champion in the 50-meter freestyle at the Beijing summer games in 2008.

Jones, 28, the second African American in history to win an Olympic gold medal in swimming (400-meter freestyle with Michael Phelps, Jason Lezak, and Garrett Weber-Gale), places his faith, courage, and hard work in a children’s book titled “Speed to Glory: The Cullen Jones Story” (Zonderkidz; $6.99), currently in bookstores.

In the 2012 London Olympics, the North Carolina State University alum will participate in the men’s 100-meter freestyle (July 31 heat), men’s 400-meter relay (July 29 heat), and men’s 50-meter freestyle (Aug. 2 heat) at the 2012 summer games.

Written by Natalie Davis Miller, the book is truly inspirational. Whether it is swimming or in life, Jones wants readers to understand that commitment and trusting in God goes a long way.

Miller said Jones, who lists Proverbs as his favorite book in the Bible, attended church as a teen with his father and mother, the late Ronald Jones and Debra Jones. Although he is unable to attend church on a regular basis, Cullen Jones still devotes time in his schedule.

“I call on religion in every aspect of my life, whether I’m at the OIympic Games representing the USA or about to get on a plane to an event,” Jones said.

In the chapter “Finding Faith,” Miller said Cullen Jones keeps faith at the core of his daily life.

Jones also addresses the stereotypes about African American swimmers which exist. In chapter 12, “Make a Splash with Cullen Jones,” Miller describes how Jones came to create his swimming initiative, Make a Splash With Cullen Jones. In August 2010, Jones was taken aback by the drowning of six African American children in the Red River in Shreveport, La. This event prompted the gifted swimmer to partner with the USA Swimming Foundation and ConocoPhillips to help minorities across the country learn how to swim. In addition, Jones provides free to low-cost swimming lessons to children.

“Speed to Glory” is a simple read with a strong message: honor the steps His has provided to you, work hard, and always give back to others.

Special to Inside The Pew

Catholic music’s most celebrated composers – Steve Angrisano, Curtis Stephan, and Dan Schutte –  will take the stage at 7 p.m. on June 15 in Dallas for the first concert of the Age to Age: Generations of Faith Tour.

Leaving labels of youth, contemporary and liturgical behind, the tour aims to unite Catholics across generations to praise God and express a shared faith.

“Curtis, Dan and Steve, have been formed by the church at different seasons of her history; however, they share something in common – the faith that has been passed down to them,” said Laure Krupp, OCP’s manager of events. “That same story is true of Catholic communities everywhere. Though tastes in musical styles might vary, we are share in the same baptism and love for our God. That’s what we’re celebrating. That’s idea behind the Age to Age Tour.”

All three composers, men of deep faith, share a mutual respect and admiration for their craft.

Having grown up singing Schutte’s music, Texas native and OCP composer Curtis Stephan explains, “Dan writes the kind of music I want to write. Every time I sing something like ‘City of God’ or ‘Here I Am, Lord,’ I think how relevant and powerful it is, from the day it was written to today. When music is relevant, it’s timeless.”

“You can see in people’s faces that Steve’s music really touches them. He truly ministers to people,” said composer Dan Schutte.

The first concert of the Age to Age: Generations of Faith Tour will take place at St. Ann’s Catholic Church, 180 Samuel Blvd., in Coppell, Texas. Tickets are $10 and are available at www.ocp.org/agetoagetour or at the event. Additional tour dates are slated for July 25 in Pittsburgh, Pa., and Oct. 20 and Portland, Ore.