This week, Carole Kelley takes Leaven readers inside her role as a member of the Our Lady & St. Rose Parish choir.
Q. What is your name, title and where do you minister?
A. My name is Carole Kelley. I don’t have a specific title. But, I am a member of the Our Lady & St. Rose choir (OLSR choir). Our parish is located at 8th and Quindaro Blvd. in Kansas City, Kansas. I sing in the soprano section.
Q. Please describe what you do.
A. I participate with the choir in providing music for Sunday Mass, funerals, weddings and choir concerts.
Q. How would you describe how your ministry fits into the larger mission of the Catholic Church?
A. One of the missions of the Catholic Church I can think of is evangelization. As a member of the OLSR choir, I feel that we respond to this particular mission in that we participate with our brothers and sisters of other religious denominations in special musical celebrations at their churches. We also extend invitations to the surrounding community and religious denominations to join with us when we present musical concerts.
Q. Is your parish choir different from other parish choirs in the archdiocese? If so, how?
A. I would say as African American Catholics, our ethnicity makes us different from other choirs in the archdiocese. While we sing in traditional Catholic Mass settings, we also incorporate music that reflects our African American heritage (contemporary gospel style and spirituals, for example). Our choir director makes sure that we learn and present to our congregation music for Mass settings that have been written by African American composers.
Q. Is this what you set out to do in life? If not, what road led you to this place?
A. Not necessarily. Singing is something I’ve always enjoyed doing. As a young girl attending a small Catholic grade school, we always sang the daily Mass and sometimes the Sunday Mass. I can remember having music lessons in what was called the “big room” at the school.
Generally, I believe we were grouped by grades and were taught songs for Mass and for special programs we performed, usually in the spring. At that age, we were never taught to read music. We learned by rote. Those early years taught me to love and appreciate music and it has stuck with me all my life.
Q. Did you collect some skills from other jobs along the way that have proved surprisingly applicable in your ministry? If so, explain. Also, were you later trained in reading music?
A. No, I have always held jobs in the fields of business, finance and management — nothing connected to music. As an adult, I took piano lessons for about two years. I had always wanted to learn to play the piano. This was the only time I was ever exposed to actually learning to read music.
Q. What would the average Catholic be most surprised to learn about what you do with your ministry, particularly as it has been described as a gospel choir and you perform outside Mass?
A. Well, I’m not sure. I can say that serving in this ministry is a commitment that I feel very strongly about. It is very rewarding when we learn new music and I feel very proud when we are able to represent our church and share our hard work and skills with others. It is a way of bringing people together and of sharing our faith and grace through song.
Q. Who does your ministry primarily serve?
A. My ministry as a choir member primarily serves God and, in doing so, serves my church family and community.
Q. What do you wish everybody knew about your ministry?
A. As I said earlier, it is a commitment that you make to your church to be a member of the choir and it is very rewarding. It draws you closer to God. It’s good for the soul and it makes you feel good!
Q. Why does the world need more of what you’re offering, especially right now?
A. There is a saying that those who sing pray twice. With all that is going on in our world today, we need all the prayers we can get.
Q. What have you learned about people in this job?
A. I have learned that music is universal and everybody enjoys it. Not everybody may be able to sing, but they can appreciate the feeling experienced from music.
Q. What have you learned about yourself?
A. I have learned not to be afraid of trying, especially when it comes to performing solo.
Q. How has it changed the way you view your identity as a Catholic?
A. It has not changed the way I view my identity as a Catholic. I was baptized in the Catholic Church as an infant. I have been a member of Our Lady & St. Rose Church all 74 years of my life, and I have known the majority of the people in my congregation most of my life. We are all proud of and feel strongly about our African American Catholic heritage. I think this is what makes our little church family unique.
Carole Kelley is a retired administrative officer for the Treasury Financial Management Service. During her career, she worked for a financial institution for several years before moving to a position with the federal government for the next 34 years. She and her husband Delbert celebrated their 50th anniversary in 2021. They have one daughter, two granddaughters and one great-grandson. Kelley enjoys cooking and sewing.
Leave a Comment