Fr. Timothy Shea
Blog #23: Musical Memories
June 9, 2021
In my last blog I wrote about my Ordination and my first Mass in 1974. I should have mentioned that at my first Mass and then again, the Mass to celebrate my 25th Anniversary, the choir for both Masses was very special. It was a choir composed of my aunts, uncles and cousins – and they sounded awesome…one advantage of coming from a big family.
Another musical memory is that one of the Ordination gifts I received was from a co-worker of my father. Dad worked at CKWS Radio as a salesman. One of the other salesmen was Cam Shillington. Cam sang in a gospel music group called: “The Master’s Trio.” They were very good and travelled almost every weekend to the United States to sing at big gospel gatherings. Since Cam had all the equipment to make records, his ordination gift to me was 50 albums of my first Mass: Prayers and homily on one side, the family choir on the other side. It was a fantastic gift. I was able to give an album to each choir member and most of my family.
But here is where the plot thickens. I was assigned to St. Mary’s Cathedral so once or twice a week I would go home for lunch with my parents. At one of those lunches in the winter of 1975 my mother said: “The Master’s Trio is hosting a gospel music concert at Winston Churchill School next month. He gave your father two tickets, but your father won’t go, so you will have to come with me.” My reply was “Get somebody else to go, I might be busy that night”. Mom said, “You should be there. Cam made that record for your first Mass.” So, I went…the concert was a big deal; lots of publicity for it because there were 2 other famous gospel groups from the Southern U.S.A. also singing. The auditorium had about 300 seats and probably over 200 people were there. Cam was the master of ceremonies. The Master’s Trio opened the concert; then the other groups each sang 2 or 3 songs; then there was a long intermission so that each group could sell their albums, T-shirts, key chains and autographed photos. Mom bought a Jesus T-shirt!! At this time, I suggested to my mother we should thank Cam and tell him I might have to leave soon. My mom said no to that suggestion.
We were new to this gospel music scene so we did not know that the second part of the concert was a blend of really good music and faith testimonies. Up to that point my mother was thrilled and I was okay with the evening. Then, the main singer with the most famous group took the microphone and told the crowd it was time to be saved. My mother was not thrilled anymore. We were told to bow our heads and to pray for our salvation. With my head bowed I whispered to my mother: “Here we go”; she whispered back “Relax, it won’t be that bad.” Then we were told to “close our eyes and if we were sinners to put up our right hand.” I whispered to my mother: “Is your hand up?” She said: “We are all sinners.” Then the man said, “As we sing our last song, come to the front, kneel and we will pray over you.” Some of the people sitting near us got in line to go to the front. Before I had a chance to say anything, my saintly mother said, “Let’s get out of here!” We were gone in an instant. As we were hurrying to the car, Mom said, “That was a close call, we were almost Protestants.” We laughed all the way home. My Dad roared laughing. I had a good story for the supper table at the Cathedral … and Mom wore that Jesus T-shirt all summer at the cottage.