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SCAN"College of St. Catherine The College of St. Catherine

October 2008
 
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Behind the Scenes

A True Calling

Lori True often lifts up her voice, and her prayers, in her role as St. Catherine's music and liturgy coordinator.

BY SARA GILBERT

LORI TRUE sings to herself. She worries that playing music on a stereo in her Campus Ministry office will bother the rest of the staff – so instead, she uses her own voice to try out new songs for campus worship services.

"I constantly review music for events," says True, St. Catherine's music and liturgy coordinator. "But it would bother everyone else if I had it running all the time. So I sing a lot."

Singing is one way she prepares for her work; praying is another. Each week, True maps out the music and prayers for Mass at Our Lady of Victory Chapel. Each week, she pores over the scripture and studies its message. And each week, she quietly bows her head and prays.

"I ask God, 'What are you trying to tell us as a community? What do we need to hear?'" True says. "Only then can I develop the music and the spoken prayer for the service."

Prayer isn't just part of True's job. It's what allows her to do her job well. Three years into her tenure at St. Kate's, True recognizes that it takes more than a music degree and 13 years as a community parish music director to connect spiritually with the College community.

"In a way, I am the facilitator of the community's prayer," she says. "I help to shape the prayer life of our college community. It is a big responsibility, and I spend a lot of time in prayer."

"I ask God, 'What are you trying to tell us as a community? What do we need to hear?'"
Some days those prayers are easier to fit in than others. Her weeks revolve around planning liturgies and other activities. She meets with young women involved in the Eucharistic ministry and with Campus Ministry staff and others on campus about the direction of worship. She also plans the art, flower arrangements, banners and graphics for each worship service.

In between, she finds time to write and record her own music. She started composing songs six years ago at the urging of a friend and colleague, David Haas. "He said, 'I think you have something to say with music,' probably because I was always editing everyone else's music," she laughs. "So I sat down and wrote."

Now two collections of her music for worship are available as CDs – Place at the Table (2004) and There Is Room for Us All (2006). She also has 10 songs included in the GIA Hymnal. "That's amazing to me," she says. "If people choose to use those songs, then they are praying with my music, which is an awesome thought."

Sharing her gifts

True discovered her passion for music early. "When I started talking, I started singing," she says. She studied music at Notre Dame College in Manchester, New Hampshire, but found her first job in business. When her first daughter was born with medical problems and True needed to stay at home, she found herself called back to music.

"Our parish priest came to our house and said, 'I see a gift in you,'" True recalls. "He said, 'I want to hire you as our music director.' So that's what I did. I could take my daughter with me. I stayed there for 13 years."

Her involvement in Music Ministry Alive, a national program for youth interested in music and liturgical leadership, which takes place at St. Catherine each summer, introduced True to Campus Ministry. When the coordinator position opened up, she was urged to apply. Now she feels like she's found her true calling. "This is where my gifts are best shared," she says.

Although her familiarity with Catholicism and its rituals is crucial to True's job, so is keeping an open mind about the needs of the community her ministry serves. "I can only do my job well if I know the community well," she says.

She does that by engaging with people in all areas of the College and also by taking classes. She's not above bringing cookies to the Campus Ministry office to entice students to stop in as they walk between Derham Hall and Coeur de Catherine.

"I see us as a place where students with a lot of different spiritual practices can feel a sense of welcome," she says. "I want this to be a place where they can come to talk, hang out and be involved. That's my goal."

Sara Gilbert is a freelance writer based in Mankato, Minnesota.

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Sara Gilbert

Lori True

PHOTO BY TONY NELSON