Bartonville parish to thank longtime music director Nov. 14

By: By Sandra Post

Saint Augustine said it first, “Those who sing well pray twice.” Based on that calculation, Gayle (Morgan) Mirande has offered countless prayers throughout her life — and encouraged countless more from others.

“I always felt God was using my music as my extra prayer,” she says.
After nearly 40 years of music ministry at St. Anthony’s Parish in Bartonville, Mirande is stepping down from her role as director of liturgical music. She’s leaving with a firm sense of “it’s time,” but with twinges of sadness.

“I get sad sometimes thinking about it, but I know it’s the right decision,” she said.

Parishioners and friends will have the opportunity to thank the musician for her years of service at an open house in Mirande’s honor at the parish on Sunday, Nov. 14, from 2:30 to 4:30 p.m.

Mirande, 69, began taking piano lessons when she was 7. She also took a few organ lessons from a nun at St. Patrick’s Grade School in Peoria and when she was in the upper grades there, played for school Masses. As a high school student, she played during the summers.

She majored in music education and minored in business, earning her degree from Illinois State University.

“My mother told me I’d never make any money in music so I should minor in business,” she says. Her mother was partially correct, as Mirande’s gift of music was exactly that, a gift during most of her years of music ministry.

She and Mike married in June of 1963, lived in Streator for two years, moved back to Peoria and were members of St. Vincent de Paul Parish.

“Father Livingston asked from the pulpit for a musician,” she recalls. Mirande volunteered. That was in the fall of 1970. She played the organ at St. Vincent’s for two years, and then the couple and their two sons moved to Bartonville and joined St. Anthony’s Parish.

“I worked very closely with Betty Wood, who was the choir director then, and she and I started a great friendship. I probably would never have known all the people I’ve met were it not for the music. I’ve made great friends and worked with a wonderful choir and many different musicians.”
Mirande says as an organist, she’s enjoyed a special “vantage point” in church where she could observe many heartwarming moments.

“Sometimes just looking out and seeing all the people is almost like seeing the face of God in them,” she says. At the former Liturgical Center, prior to the church building at St. Anthony’s, she remembers “people would file by closely, and I looked up and a man who had just completed RCIA walked by before Communion, and the look on his face was just beautiful. He was glowing. I will never forget it.”

Playing weddings for friends and family has been a special joy. Often she’s played for two generations of families, and says, “It’s wonderful that I could be a part of such important events in people’s lives.” Mirande has played and sung for weddings and funerals in many churches throughout the area. For those funerals where she knew the family personally, she’d asked friends to pray at the specific time of the funeral for help in maintaining her composure.

“I would feel this calm come over me,” she says gratefully.

Mirande is quick to credit her husband for continual support. “I couldn’t have done this without him. He never complained,” even throughout complex scheduling while trying to plan trips or vacations. The couple is looking forward to spending more time visiting their married sons and their six grandchildren, and more leisure time for travel.

Father David Heinz, pastor at St. Anthony’s, says, “Gayle’s decades of sharing her faith through music are very much appreciated. She shared her talent as a musician to help her fellow parishioners pray.”

Perhaps those who share music pray even more than twice.

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