Katie Riley breathes in a unique and holy breeze that combines a dedicated love of God, a deep passion for music, and a blessed lens of seeing God’s people as holy and wonderful.
Katie was baptized at Epiphany Church in Cliffside, New Jersey, and soon after, her family became involved at St. John’s in Leonia where she was involved with just about anything that was available to a young girl at the time in both the church, at school, and in the greater community: she was on the swim team, she was a cheerleader, and she began private study of piano and organ. In the fourth grade she became an altar server, which served as the genesis of her life in ministry. By the time she was in the 8thgrade she was serving as a cantor on a regular basis. Alongside her love of music ministry and all things having to do with her faith she began to nurture a love for musical theatre (that seems to be the case for so many of us who had a parallel love for liturgical music when we were young), and was found to be constantly singing wherever she was – at church, at school, and all around the house.
Katie remembers her very first experience with how music serves as an instrument of healing at a very young age: “I had a friend named Ana who passed away from brain cancer in elementary school. When I would visit her with my Mom, I used to sing to her … and she would respond and sing with me. And when she passed away, I sang her funeral. And as a result, to this day, singing funerals remain one of the greatest gifts of my ministry.”
As Katie grew older her music ministry involvement continued to expand as a high school student at the Academy of Holy Angels in Demarest, New Jersey. In addition to serving as a cantor and singer, she was a sacristan, and also became a eucharistic minister and lector – all after her receiving the sacrament of Confirmation. It was during this time that she truly developed and matured as a singer and cantor, and also became more involved as an actress and dancer. She later attended Rutgers College/Rutgers University and became more and more involved in musical theatre; and became involved in mission trips in various parts of the world. It was during this time when she accepted her first leadership position in music ministry in the campus ministry at Rutgers. She graduated Rutgers with a double major in Spanish and Communications, with a minor in Italian.
Over the years, Katie has been involved in numerous parishes in New Jersey as a cantor, choir director and youth minister, and in 2005 she joined Sts. Peter and Paul parish in Hoboken, where she has served ever since. Over the years up until the present she has served as cantor, director of young adult music ministry, and now, leadership at their weekly Sunday evening Mass.
Just three years ago, she began developing a Drama ministry in partnership with other parishes, as well as being involved with the parish faith formation program, having a special passion for working with children. With this beautiful ministry she writes the scripts, plans the activities, produces videos, and designs the interactive and intergenerational presentations. Katie’s energy, passion, and enthusiasm seems to never fatigue, but the rewards are tremendous: “Working with children you have to constantly give of yourself, but those little ones give you so much back.”
Believe it or not – Katie has a day job as a marketing and design professional for a company in Manhattan. Yet, she would admit that her primary loves are found in her calling as a minister of music, and her continual work in musical theatre in a wide variety of venues, and names her favorite roles as being the narrator in “Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat;” Rosie in “Mama Mia;” Frau Blucher in “Young Frankenstein;” Eponine in “Les Miserables,” and Ursula in “The Little Mermaid.”
It is remarkable that Katie has the time to juggle all of these amazingly creative callings into her life, but she does so with such joy and gratitude. She has also assisted with various liturgical celebrations, workshops and other events for gatherings at the Mid-Atlantic Ministry Congress; the National Association of Pastoral Musicians; and the Los Angeles Religious Education Congress. In addition to all of this, she has practices that she leads in Yoga and meditation, and is also a certified Reiki practioner.
Beyond her busy schedule and her dedicated commitments in music ministry, more than anything, what inspires me the most about Katie is her incredible positive energy, her love of God and her equal love of the people she serves and leads in sung prayer. She articulates this in what I would say is her personal mission statement: “In everyday life, I leave my front door with the mission to give people a reason to smilethat day. And combined with ministry life, my mission is also to allow God to work through me to give people a new end closer experience of who God is … to let people know that they are so immensely loved.” A goal that all of us should strive for as pastoral musicians, yes?
Katie’s joy is infectious, and is a quality that inspires so many of us who are engaged in pastoral music ministry. What a joy she is and brings to us all. And we are all the better because of it. God bless you, Katie! DH (8.3.19)