“Go and make disciples of all nations…”  Matthew 28:19

Melissa Barber-Tarolla’s enthusiasm for her faith is contagious.  Whether it be through the Reach More Movement or through her beautiful singing, Melissa’s mission is to simply, joyfully bring more people to Christ.     

Born and raised in Northeast Ohio, Melissa attended Saint John Bosco school from grades three through eight.  She developed an interest in singing at an early age and auditioned successfully for the Singing Angels professional children’s chorus.  At the age of 13, the talented Melissa began singing as a cantor with SJB’s folk choir.  She credits Ursuline Sister Ann Letitia as  an early influence.  “She played the guitar so beautifully and inspired me to sing at Mass,” remembers Melissa.   On stage and at Church,  “Music has allowed me to share joy through my God-given talent,” she says.

Following graduation from Midpark High School, Melissa studied at Otterbein University, where she obtained a Bachelor of Arts degree in Musical Theater and Music Business.  She moved to New York City in the hopes of landing a musical theater career.  While in New York, she performed at supper clubs.  “The audience favorite was ‘Go Light Your World,’ a song that I first learned here at SJB,” reflects Melissa.  “The audience was hungry for the message of that song.”  While performing professionally, she also  performed with a traveling drama and healing ministry.

After moving back from NYC, Melissa started a career in event and video production, which she did for 20+ years, preparing large conferences for corporations and national associations.  During that time, she met her husband, Tom, whom she calls “my best friend, my partner in everything, and a man with a servant’s heart.”  Early in their marriage, the couple lived in the Chicago area, where Melissa  continued to work in parish music ministry.  All the while, there was a tug on her heart to find work in the field of Catholic evangelization.  In 2017, they  moved to Cleveland, and Melissa resumed singing at SJB as well as hosting retreats and being a Catholic Keynote Speaker/Singer. 

In October 2023, Father Matt Byrne hired Melissa for the position of Director of Discipleship at SJB.  As Melissa explains, “Father Matt and the Catholic Church have a vision to transition from being a ministerial church to an apostolic church.  This means that we come to Mass to be fed and nourished by the Eucharist, but then we are sent forth as missionary disciples to become an apostolic church.”  Melissa’s main role is leading the Reach MoreTM Movement here at the parish. Through the Reach More study guides, videos, and small group skill-building exercises, Catholics become better equipped to share our faith in an authentic, natural manner.  Reach More evangelization is not about knocking on doors or standing on street corners, but rather offering the opportunity to pray with others and gently encouraging fallen-away Catholics to  seek intimacy with Jesus.  The movement provides practical tips on what to say and what not to say when speaking to others about our faith.  “Some participants have told me that Reach More has given them the much-needed courage to evangelize in everyday situations,” says Melissa.    

After completing training sessions, Melissa continues to meet with the trained disciples.  “My main priority as Director of Discipleship is to accompany my fellow parishioners one on one through their personal journeys.  Reach More is about investing in relationships with people in our own unique circles of influence and slowly, in God’s timing, we can share His good news with them.”  Melissa’s hope is for the Reach More movement to grow and spread to hundreds of people in our parish.  As she describes it, “Discipleship is for everyone.  We must sow the seeds, be salt and light, and be Christ to others in our families, at work, at school, even while running errands.  We can all live a disciple’s lifestyle!”  

To date, 46 parishioners have completed Reach More training.  The twelve-week training is offered four times per year.  Class size ranges from six to 12 people. Classes are for all adults 18 and over.  If interested, please contact Melissa to learn more at (440) 886-2500 x 107. mbarber@sjbparmaheights.org.