Liturgy – God’s Gift and Call

Angela Gorman, 23 February 2023

Angela Gorman strikes me as someone switched on to the movement of the Spirit. Her ready refrain in our interview was, “God is doing something new in me at the moment.” How could I help but be excited by this inspiring channel of hope?

Angela grew up as a Catholic in Western Australia and has always been drawn to ministry. She had a great example and mentor in her parish priest and asked him, at age 8, “Can I be an altar boy?” Although that wasn’t possible, he nurtured her calling and educated her in liturgy. At age 9, she joined the parish music group, and this commitment to the ministry of melody has never stopped. 

“This is how God works.” Angela became a primary school teacher, then studied further in religious education, theology and liturgy. The latter was a “wonderful experience” as the professors were her heroes who were writing books on liturgy. During her study in America, Angela was also surrounded by priests formed in Vatican II liturgical theology, and experienced music, preaching and hospitality “at another level.” Previous to this, she was very fortunate to work with an eminent Perth liturgist, Rev Dr Russell Hardiman, on the journal Pastoral Liturgy. More great mentors at the time were able to confirm and nurture her vocation.  However, it wasn’t always like that…

After her postgraduate studies in theology and religious education, Angela was ready to serve the church with her gifts of youthfulness, joy, leadership skills and the ability to connect with others. However, it seemed that the Church was not prepared to make use of these qualities in a paid working capacity. Fortunately, God opened a path. Angela had to launch out on her own. Angela started the creative liturgical and educational business, Shine Creations, in 1999. Angela found a niche market in running Catholic school staff development days, as well as formation in music ministry and retreats for parishes. It was “very full time” providing groups with liturgical, musical and faith experiences, for both development and nourishment.

Through this business, Angela offered a well thought-out program, but even more than this, felt the Lord “use my presence and personality to speak to the people.” She went to where they were, then used a retreat environment that included singing and spontaneous prayer to “speak to the hearts of the people, to allow their pain and hurt to have a safe space to be expressed.” Angela was also able to convey Church teaching on liturgy and inspire their liturgical and other prayer celebrations. Very soon the word got out about her sessions, and she was solidly booked and employing others.

However, as it does, life had different twists and turns, and God moved Angela along other paths. She now has a husband and two children, and feels she is developing a new maturity and skills that are transferring well into a different form of ministry. She has discerned a need to pull back from her local and national liturgical commitments, but still does voluntary parish music ministry. When describing this involvement, Angela says that “there is no way I could rehearse what happens during this form of worship.” The Spirit leads, and she feels “God using me powerfully.” Feedback from parishioners comes in the form of tears streaming down faces, affirmations and transformations. At a recent rehearsal, a woman approached her and said “when you sing, I feel as if heaven comes down to earth.” Angela finds this so humbling, as she knows “exactly where the power comes from.” 

Angela loves the quote, “If you want to know who the leader is, look who the people are following.” It seems that many church people have recognised those leadership qualities in her. However, it still does not translate into a stable or compensated ministry. Angela has often had the conversation with God: “Why have you given me these gifts, this understanding, this passion for ministry, if I can’t share them all with the people I worship with, the Catholic community, in any formal large group context?”

Yet Angela believes that God has shaped her for a purpose. She has been given gifts and skills, and a big heart for Jesus that she wants to share with everyone. It is all about discernment. Angela pays attention when she feels her “heart so in union with Jesus and the people around me, when I feel the most authentically me.” And it is in the times in front of a group in faith/liturgical formation or music ministry that she “literally feels the Spirit of God moving my voice, my thoughts and the way I play the piano.”

Today, Angela feels that God may be challenging her to give courage to others through telling her story. If women were able to be deacons, it would give Angela the structures and organisation to best make use of her life experiences. She would be able to prepare, preach and preside at liturgies, marriages and funerals. Angela knows the impact that a youngish female, a mum, a wife, filled with love for Jesus, could have on God’s people.

It is a big step for our Church, but Angela believes in the “big vision” of Pope Francis and his call to synodality. This is “no coincidence.” God is speaking to the Church in Australia, and Angela is listening with every fibre of her being.   

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