Pastoral musicians offer inspiration through their talents

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PROVIDENCE — Experts on the liturgy say a liturgy that features great preaching, vibrant music and good and warm hospitality is a recipe for a parish community to grow and help many experience God’s love and mercy.

That was one of the messages that participants received on October 26 during the professional day offered in English, part of the VII Conference of AMPHE, the Association of Hispanic Pastoral Musicians held at St. Patrick Church on October 26-27.

The professional day was followed by a concert on Friday night, sponsored by Oregon Catholic Press. During the concert Puerto Rican composer Damaris Thillet presented her new work “Todo Lo Puedo en Dios,” (Everything is Possible with God). The concert also featured composer Pedro Rubalcava, director of Music Development and Outreach at OCP.

On Saturday October 27, more than 200 pastoral musicians and choir members came to Providence from all over New England, and from as far as Philadelphia and Miami, to participate in the Hispanic pastoral musician’s conference.

Bishop Thomas J. Tobin started the day by leading Morning Prayer and delivering a brief and inspiring homily. Then Father Juan Sosa, president of the National Hispanic Liturgy Institute delivered the keynote on the new Spanish Roman Missal that parishes are required to start using on Advent.

The day proceeded with breakout sessions, musical showcases and concerts, ending with Mass at 6 p.m.

Iris Corporan, music director of the Spanish Choir of St. Michael the Arcangel Parish in Providence, attended the event with a big group of fellow pastoral musicians and choir members.

“Among the many things I learned, something that struck me greatly, was seeing in the participants the desire, the thirst to learn more about our liturgy, and to take advantage of the resources and technical training that a conference of this magnitude has to offer,” Corporan said.

She has been to other conferences before, but for most of her choir members this was their first liturgical conference experience.

“By holding a national conference of pastoral musicians in this part of New England, at such an affordable price, many more from our parishes had the opportunity to attend, and grow with all the valuable information we received,” she said.

The conference had a cost of $35 including lunch and a light breakfast. The participants received a tote bag with samples of hymnals and music from the publishers of Oregon Catholic Press, a rosary from World Library Publications, chocolates from Catholic Relief Services and from Equal Exchange, flyers and a copy of the diocesan Spanish newspaper.

Yorian Contreras volunteers as a singer at St. Patrick Church in Providence on Wednesdays at the 6:30 p.m. Mass, Saturday at the 6 p.m. Mass and Sundays at the 12:15 p.m., all in Spanish.

“What impacted me the most was the dynamics of the presenters, their knowledge about music, and suggestions on how to better praise God with respect, love and humility,” Contreras said.

She recommends that all members of music ministries to attend workshops like these.

“The majority sing without any training or professional help,” she said.

“I learned how to educate my voice through vocal exercises, and also how to behave during the rehearsals (which are super important) and during Mass,” she said.

Tony Martinez is the music director of Holy Family parish in Boston. He attended the event with seven members of his choir and was very grateful for the opportunity. He was also very thankful that his pastor sponsored the registration for all of his choir members to attend.

For all of them this was their first liturgical formation experience.

“I now have an awareness of the importance of formation, also of other music ministries and how he faced similar challenges, and of the abundance of resources available for our music ministries,” Martinez said.

“I learned how to run an effective choir practice with more singing and less talking and how to keep it engaging,” he said.

He learned that the commitment to the ministry starts with the example of the director, and “how to introduce new songs to the assembly, and several do’s and don’ts for the music ministry.”

“I already divided up the choir into voice types. We started using the music ministry prayer, provided by the speaker from Miami, and doing voice warm-up exercises. We established stricter discipline for the ministry and continued to spread God’s love through music and actions,” he concluded.

Father James Ruggieri, pastor of St. Patrick Church, was very happy with the success of the event. He thanked all the volunteers, speakers and sponsors, including the Diocese of Providence, OCP, WLP, INHL, Maryknoll, CRS-Equal Exchange, Xelapan Bakery, the Ruiz Family, De Jesus Family, Rev. David Orique and Providence College who hosted some of the speakers.