For nearly three decades, Mary Clare Mendick has been leading the choir, putting on programs and playing the music heard at Sunday Mass for St. Gerald Catholic Church.
Sunday was the last time Mendick led the congregation in song. Mendick is retiring after 29 years as the church’s music director.
“They have been searching for someone knowing that I wanted to retire,” Mendick said. “That was my prayer that it would be the time. This must be the time.”
Mendick has always had an interest in liturgical music since a young age.
“I grew up in it,” she said. “At Holy Ghost [Catholic Church], I used to play the old pump organ when I was 8 years old. And I had a pastor there who made me really think I could do this. I just fell into it and couldn’t quit.”
Nearly 30 years ago, Mendick was teaching at Holy Ghost when then-Rev. William Foster called her and asked her to bring her musical talents to the church.
“They didn’t have a program then,” she said.
“It’s challenging but also exciting. It’s like a blank canvas. I had enough experience to know what works and what draws people in.”
Over much of her 29 years, Mendick led music at the church and the grade school. In 2010, she was switched to full-time work with the liturgical music at the church.
“I did all Christmas programs, parish programs, Easter programs,” Mendick said.
“That gave me the freedom to do what I needed.”
Over time, the choir and Mendick grew close, making her never want to leave St. Gerald.
“We built it as a parish family. When you pour your heart and soul into something, why would you leave? Why go anywhere else?” she said.
Now, after 29 years, Mendick is ready to move on and enjoy retired life, although she has no solid plans just yet.
“I don’t have definite plans,” she said. “I’ll be listening and watching. I’ll be more free to be present to other loves that I have.”
Because of how close the choir is, Mendick said they and the people of the parish will make it hard to say goodbye.
“We really came to care so much about each other,” she said. “The choir is an extended family. That’s the hardest reason to leave.”
At the start, Mendick’s first choir was comprised of her 13 children since the parish had not yet formed one.
They were also the final choir she was scheduled to perform with during Sunday’s noon Mass.
“They asked to do that,” she said with a smile.