Amanda Connon is director of diocese’s new Office of Information Management

Amanda Connon, director of the Diocese of Peoria's new Office of Information Management, is pictured in her office on the second floor of the Spalding Pastoral Center in Peoria. (The Catholic Post/Tom Dermody)

“I’m like a super-nerd,” says Amanda Connon. “I love organizing things.”

Bishop Louis Tylka saw that skill in Connon as she recently did volunteer work gathering information and creating databases for the Diocese of Peoria. And he recognized the high school music teacher would be a good candidate to help solve some shortcomings in how the diocese collects and uses data involving its many parishes and institutions.

“Amanda’s a great person for this,” he says of the diocese’s first director of a newly created Office of Information Management. “She has a very analytical mind, is extremely organized, and is able to follow through to put the pieces of the puzzle together.”

For the last 12 years, those puzzle pieces have included clarinets, flutes, trombones and most importantly, students, in Connon’s role as a music teacher, band, and choir director at three Catholic schools in the diocese — Peoria Notre Dame High School, St. Mark School in Peoria, and for the last two years Central Catholic High School in Bloomington. While at Central Catholic, she also taught at Corpus Christi Catholic School in Bloomington and Epiphany Catholic School, Normal.

“I loved every moment I was teaching,” said Connon, a native of Oswego who has a degree in music education from Augustana College in Rock Island. Her ability to be “goal-oriented and objective based” served her well in guiding students.

DATA NEEDED FOR DECISION-MAKING

Through various volunteer projects within schools or her community, however, Connon — a member of St. Philomena Parish in Peoria — recognized she also loved helping others get organized so they can focus on a task at hand.

And the Diocese of Peoria has many tasks at hand as Bishop Tylka begins his time as its chief shepherd.

“I loved every minute I was teaching,” says Amanda Connon, a former music teacher and band director. In her new role as director of the Diocese of Peoria’s Office of Information Management, she will pursue another love — helping others get organized so they can focus on tasks at hand. (Provided photo/Amy Weiland)

“The more information Amanda would put together,” said Bishop Tylka of Connon in her volunteer role, “the more evident it became that we need . . . strong, solid data, because we’re going to have to use the data to make decisions going forward.”

In her full-time position with the Office of Information Management, Connon will develop and maintain an all-encompassing database for the diocese. She will also eventually assume responsibilities for the diocesan website and assist in special projects given to her by the bishop’s office.

“The church is still archaic in some of this,” said Bishop Tylka of how parishes and dioceses record information on properties, sacramental records, cemeteries, and more. The registration of a baptism, he noted, still has to be handwritten in a ledger.

“You would think in the second decade of the 21st Century we’d be much further along in putting all of that data online and digital,” said Bishop Tylka. “We’re not. And we are not unique in this. Most dioceses would be seen as lacking in data management.’

HER PATH INTO THE CHURCH

The opportunity to work for the diocese is especially meaningful to Connon.

“I have a huge heart for all of our priests and religious,” she said, pointing to the influence many of them had in her decision to enter the Catholic Church in 2015.

Raised in different Protestant denominations and a product of public schools, Connon was surprised when her first job out of college was as music teacher and concert band director at a Catholic school, Peoria Notre Dame.

“They’ll never hire me because I’m not Catholic,” she thought as she left the school after her interview in 2010. “The following Wednesday, I got a job offer.”

Her path into the church was paved by many. There were interactions with priest chaplains including Father Paul Carlson and Father Adam Stimpson; the example of teaching colleagues “authentically living their faith”; thought-provoking questions posed by students; and experiences of faith-in-action on mission trips she accompanied.

Perhaps most important was the correspondence with a close childhood friend who, at the same time she started teaching, was discerning a vocation to the priesthood and is now a priest of the Diocese of Joliet.

“We kind of journeyed through that together,” said Connon of Father Ryan Adorjan. “Our parents are all friends. He was a big part of me being in a Catholic school, having no idea what was going on, explaining things.”

Connon entered the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults at St. Jude Parish, Peoria, in 2014 and was confirmed at the Easter Vigil the following year.

While her new job will involve numbers and facts, Connon’s life will still involve music — and lots of it. She was formally and classically trained on piano from age 5 through college. Both of her grandmothers were church musicians.

Connon is a frequent substitute accompanist or cantor at area parishes. She also plays for schools and community theater productions. This summer she is music director for Corn Stock Theatre’s production of “Freaky Friday.”

“I like to keep my brain busy,” she says.

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