Connie Price has worked for the Archdiocese of Toronto for over 10 years. Her role with the Office of Formation for Discipleship gives her great insight into parish life in our archdiocese. As a gifted musician, Connie provides a great example of using one's time and talents for the glory of God.
1. Describe your role with the Office of Formation for Discipleship. How long have you been in this role?
I have been a team member for the Office of Formation for Discipleship since its establishment in September 2009. From 2000-2009, I was a consultant for CORE, the Catholic Office of Religious Education. I currently assist with the development of resources for our department. Our department seeks to help people understand their faith more clearly and thus live it more eagerly. Depending on the project, my role can include research, writing, consulting, teaching and presenting for parishioners, parish staff, pastors and pastoral regions. Our team is diverse, and includes fourteen members with very different gifts and strengths. My presentations are in the areas of Church teachings and liturgical ministries.
2. What does an ideal day look like in your job?
An ideal day is one in which I am teaching, let’s say, the series on the Catechism of the Catholic Church, and a participant “gets it.” It is wonderful to witness that “Ah-ha!” moment when a person makes a connection and begins to understand an aspect of Catholic teaching in a way that is deeply relevant to their faith and life. It is no longer a text that is “out there,” but something that has living roots in the tradition of the Church and bears fruit in real life. It may be as simple as the why or how of a particular doctrine. Or it could be a better understanding of the relationship between what we believe, how we celebrate, how we live and how we pray, as outlined in the Catechism and by Pope Benedict or Pope Francis. Either way, when the light goes on and someone understands their faith more clearly, I have had a good day!
3. Based on the work you’ve done with parishes, how would you describe the engagement of the laity in parish ministry? What unique skills and charisms do they bring to the table?
I find that the engagement of the laity in most parishes is very full and vibrant. Each of our 225 parishes functions differently, because of its demographics and other variables. Many pastors are very reliant upon and grateful for the various gifts and skills of their laity for the life of their parishes. I have witnessed tremendous generosity of time and talent among the laity. Some examples include sharing knowledge of financial matters for parish finance councils, providing hospitality to those who enter the church doors or attend parish functions, and serving in liturgical ministries. I’ve also observed the hard work of parish councils, lay movements, parish social ministries (such as parish nurses), and those who assist with religious education for the children of the parish. The laity offer their individual gifts to build up the community in love, as we hear in the letter to the Ephesians. The Holy Spirit does the rest!
|Connie gives a talk to parishioners at St. David's Parish in Maple, ON in 2012.|
4. If you weren’t working for the Archdiocese of Toronto, what would you be doing?
At this point in my life, I think I would be doing advocacy work for the elderly. Elder abuse has touched my life very personally in the past three years and I have been shocked at the types of treatment that get passed off as acceptable. I have seen the stark contrast between what our faith teaches about the dignity of the human person and behaviours that reflect the exact opposite. Because of these experiences, I would want to work to assist the elderly, especially those whose needs are not so visible.
5. Why is it important to have an Office of Formation for Discipleship?
I think having such an office is important because it touches all of us. Long before we discern a vocation to priesthood, marriage, single, or religious life, we are all called to be disciples of Jesus Christ and to be holy. Our baptism unites us in that vocation. Formation as a disciple of Christ is a lifelong process and looks different at different times of our lives. The Office of Formation for Discipleship, through its offerings and contacts, helps people to grow in understanding and living the vocation we share as followers of Christ.
6. Tell us about your background in music. How have you been able to use this gift for the glory of God?
My brother was my first music teacher, and he is not a musician! When I was a small child, he plunked out "Do-Re-Mi" from the Sound of Music on the piano. I copied it, and the seed of my love for music was planted!
I have since learned to play seven instruments, studied three at the Royal Conservatory of Music, am registered as an RCM flute teacher and am a member of Toronto Musicians' Association. Making music has funded a good portion of my education, and led me to some exciting gig locations, including Massey Hall, Roy Thomson Hall, Queen's Park, and the Hockey Hall of Fame (where I got to touch the real Stanley Cup when it was there on a photo shoot!).
As for liturgical music, I have been playing at liturgies since 1975 – that’s almost forty years! I worked at a Toronto parish for 13 years and have played at many retreats, Masses and other parish and religious functions around the Archdiocese.
Regardless of the amount of time spent in formal study, where we learn the techniques and skills required, the ability to go beyond the notes on the page and to make actual music is a gift. So in this sense, every use of my music, from secular gigs to liturgical music, is for the glory of God, who is the giver of that gift.
I was part of a small group of musicians that formed the band for Blessed John Paul II's visit to Toronto for World Youth Days 2002, as well as part of the orchestra for the Mass at the end of the events. It was an unforgettable experience in so many ways, but there was one moment when musical ability, gift and the glory of God all came together very clearly. On the day of the papal welcome, our group accompanied the Spirit Movers from L’Arche Daybreak as they danced to the song “On This Holy Mountain.” We were all on the same stage: the Holy Father, the Spirit Movers, and our group. Hundreds of thousands of pilgrims were gathered. It was a very sacred moment, and a very humbling one. We were all there for the same purpose: to serve with the gifts that God has given us.
|"Every use of my music...is for the glory of God, who is the giver of that gift." - Connie Price.|
7. Who inspires you?
This is the most difficult question, because there are so many. I will name four; one that you might expect and three that might surprise you. The first is a boy named Mattie Stepanek. Mattie was the last of four siblings to suffer from a rare form of muscular dystrophy, and the only one to live past childhood. He passed away at the age of fourteen after suffering through multiple physical disabilities. During his short life, he taught a message of peace through poetry, speaking engagements and television interviews, all while struggling to breathe with the help of a portable machine. Though suffering, he exuded hope. His message was simple, and reflective of the Gospel. His mother, Jeni, has carried on his mission of peace through his website.
Next are Jimmy and Rosalynn Carter. They preach the Gospel in their words and deeds, and have done so from high places, like the White House and international missions and in Sunday school classes that Jimmy still teaches in Plains, Georgia. Rosalynn has begun a center for caregivers born of the experience of caring for Jimmy’s mother, Miss Lillian. Jimmy is now 88 and is still heavily involved in working for human rights, disease eradication in under-developed countries, and Habitat for Humanity. What drives them? Their relationship with the Lord and their immersion in the Word of God.
Finally, I have been, and continue to be inspired by Pope Francis. I admire his courage and his willingness to go where the Lord leads him. As I get older, I increasingly appreciate the difficulty in leaving that which is known and comfortable in order to respond to another calling. His faith and abandonment to God’s will are an inspiration.
8. What is the strangest piece of advice you’ve ever received?
When I began doctoral studies in theology, my faculty advisor said something to this effect (and with a smile on her face!): “If you're serious about going into theology, you'll have to cut out all of that music that you do.” I was much younger and new to doctoral work, so I stopped my proceedings at the Conservatory. I honestly thought that this was what I should do. Within a few weeks, life just wasn't right. I felt like I was walking through quicksand with hip boots and that my brain was full of cotton balls. I remember searching my mind, trying to figure out what the problem was. Then the light came on. The only thing that had changed was my discontinuation of music! I went back to the Conservatory, and started playing seriously again. I told my teacher that I felt like I'd cut off one arm. She told me to get back into it, and that I owed myself a big apology! Soon, my mind became clearer and I began to recognize myself again. In fairness to that first faculty advisor, she was not a musician, and probably thought that my music was taking away from theology studies. However, the opposite was true. Getting back into music used a different part of my brain, and was and is helpful to mental sharpness and being able to make connections between concepts.
9. What is your favourite thing to do in your free time?
If my free time falls on a Saturday evening, my favourite thing is to listen to the radio programme, “A Prairie Home Companion” with Garrison Keillor. I was introduced to it when I was at Creighton University in Omaha thirty years ago and have been listening ever since.
Otherwise, my favourite thing to do is to spend quiet time with a good cup of coffee and the Sunday New York Times crossword puzzle. I spent almost one month in a rehab hospital after a knee surgery and had no television, only my trusty book of crossword puzzles for the times between post-op exercises!
10. What is the best place you’ve ever visited and why is it so great?
Alaska! I love all things north and went to Alaska a few years ago. It is beautiful and rugged and untouched, or less touched, by development. One of my favourite memories is of being on a catamaran, passing between mountains. We stopped for a long time with the engine turned off and just took in the silence. We noticed the beauty of the mountains, the waterfall and the seals sunning themselves on the rocks. I will always have that wonderful memory, no matter where I am.