Local Church musicians get St. Cecilia Awards at special Mass
By Julie Filby
Photo by James Baca/DCR
Two pastoral musicians of the Denver Archdiocese were recognized at the annual St. Cecelia Mass, a liturgy honoring the patron saint of musicians. The Mass was celebrated Nov. 19 at Immaculate Conception Church in Lafayette by apostolic administrator Bishop James D. Conley.
This year’s honorees were Christine Nyholm of St. Augustine Parish in Brighton and Ronald Kientz of Holy Name Parish in Englewood.
Christine Nyholm, 59, has been a music minister since she tried out for choir at Blessed Sacrament School.
“I couldn’t wait to get in sixth grade to try out,” she said. “Every since then I’ve been in church choirs, either singing or directing.”
Nyholm served 25 years as music director at St. Mark Parish in Westminster, and credits then-pastor Father John Canjar for influencing her vocation in music ministry.
“After he asked me to direct the choir, he handed me a book on the Second Vatican Council documents and said: ‘Here, read this,’” she said with a laugh. “I said: ‘OK’ and I did. … That had a big impact on me.
“Everyone needs to know these things if they’re going to be a minister in the liturgy,” she said. “I was grateful.”
Nyholm served as music and liturgy director at Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary Church in Welby for six years where the choir grew from four members to 30, under her direction. She now directs a choir at St. Augustine Parish in Brighton.
“Chris is an excellent musician, choral director and soloist,” said Deacon Charles Parker, director of liturgy. “She enlivens liturgies with her presence as well as her musical skills.”
Nyholm, married to Stew, has five children, two stepchildren and 12 grandchildren. She is grateful to her family, and many others, for their support.
“Families give up every weekend, holiday and some weeknights for this commitment,” she said. “We also couldn’t do it without the pastor’s support, collaborative keyboard artists—‘the unsung heroes’—and every instrumentalist and choir member who volunteers untold hours.
“God, who gave us the gift of liturgy, also gave us the gift of song,” she said.
Nyholm holds a bachelor’s degree in church music from the University of Colorado and a minor in organ; she graduated from Denver’s Catholic Biblical School, and is working on a master’s degree at Regis University. She also sings with the Colorado Symphony Orchestra Chorus and Denver Opera.
Music has long been part of Ronald Kientz’s vocation.
“Music has been a key thing in my life,” said 70-year-old Kientz. “I’ve always tried to share it … the sacred music in the Catholic Church and in the choirs I’ve directed and sung with.”
According to Deacon Parker, Kientz has been part of music ministry in the Denver Archdiocese for nearly 40 years, serving as music director of Holy Name Parish in Englewood since 1993; and prior to that, holding the same position at Notre Dame Parish in Denver from 1973 to 1993.
“He has also written sacred music for liturgies at Notre Dame and Holy Name,” said Deacon Parker, most recently the Mass of Peace celebrated at Holy Name Easter 2010.
Kientz is an associate professor at Arapahoe Community College in Littleton, teaching the ensemble. He directs the Arapahoe Concert Chorale that he formed at the request of the conductor of the Arapahoe Philharmonic Orchestra, where he served on the board of directors for 16 years.
“We sing with the Arapahoe Philharmonic Orchestra,” he said. “The first work we did was (Giacomo) Puccini’s ‘Messa di Gloria’—it’s a very beautiful, operatic Mass.”
Kientz, who also plays piano, sings with Sound of the Rockies Barbershop Chorus, directed the Denver Mile High Chorus from 1987 to 1993, and directed the Skyline chapter of Sweet Adelines women’s chorus in the 80s.
Kietz and wife of 50 years, Ann, were married in St. Paul Chapel at the Cathedral Basilica of the Immaculate Conception in January 1961 by her uncle, then-rector Msgr. Walter Canavan. The couple has eight children and 13 grandchildren.
He holds a bachelor’s degree in vocal performance from the University of Colorado at Denver.
Kientz was humbled to be selected for the St. Cecelia Award.
“It’s really exciting and rather humbling to receive this award,” he said. “I’m pleased that someone would nominate me.”