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  • Writer's pictureProfiles in Catholicism

An Interview with Paul Mason

Gordon: Please share with our readers your background in Marketing

Paul: my biggest influence here was my father. My birth certificate records for posterity that he was a salesman. Over the years, he worked for a variety of corporations in sales, marketing and general management roles, eventually establishing his own businesses. I am so grateful for the opportunities during my university years to work with him in his businesses and especially his market stall at the Victoria Market. Selling sheepskin products and Australian souvenirs in the market was truly exciting with all the possibilities that come with encountering people, listening to their story, disclosing my own story, discovering their needs and desires, working creatively with them to match my offerings, and then getting to “Yes”, the win-win, the handshake and smiles.

I graduated from Melbourne University with a Bachelor Degree in Electrical Engineering and went looking for full time work in 1976. After a rigorous recruitment process Burroughs Corporation offered me the opportunity to join their organisation as either a systems analyst or a sales consultant. The choice of the sales role came easy.

I worked in a variety of IT sales, marketing and general management roles with Burroughs/ Unisys and Fujitsu in both Melbourne and Sydney over a period of twenty-eight years. The roles involved visioning and delivering made to measure solutions, for example the initial IT infrastructure for Post Office counter services in Australia Post, office automation in Telstra, and the initial national Telecommunications infrastructure for Optus.

Gordon: When and where did you serve as Pastoral Associate, and what were your primary responsibilities?

Paul: Well, it’s a significant journey from salesman to pastoral associate. Let me begin the story. My wife, Margaret, and I began our parenting of four children in the eighties and nineties. In the process we became friends with a number of people in our local parish community in the Melbourne suburb of Glenhuntly. When we moved to the Sydney suburb of Wahroonga in 1992 we quickly engaged with our new parish on many levels. I began a personal journey of self-study, programs such as Alpha and local workshops on liturgy and music to better understand my faith and spiritual dimensions. I was very involved in many aspects of the parish, including Chair of the Parish Pastoral Council, Chair of the Liturgy Committee and Director of the WYSPERS youth music group (Wahroonga Youth Singers and Players), which I established in December 2001.

While I was General Manager, Marketing for Fujitsu Australia and New Zealand I began part time study for a Masters Degree in Arts (Theology) at the Australian Catholic University (ACU). In 2002 I decided to look at a career shift from IT to Minister of Religion. When I completed my Theology degree, I undertook a second Masters Degree in Arts (Liturgy), which was jointly offered by Catholic Institute of Sydney and the ACU. This very much focused on the important aspects of parish ministry and gave me the opportunity to develop my research into liturgical music. In 2004 I was blessed to be appointed as Pastoral Associate to the parishes of Naremburn and Northbridge in Sydney by the parish priest Fr Michael O’Toole.

The nature of the role was full time general pastoral ministry assisting Fr Michael. The two parishes were administered by one priest. There were five weekly Masses and one weekly Liturgy of the Word with Communion at the local Catholic aged care centre. Fr Michael had support for two of the Masses from Fr Michael Kelly SJ, whose day job was CEO of Catholic Communications (Australia). My responsibilities included parishioner engagement on Sundays and weekday meetings of the Parish Pastoral Councils, Parish Finance Committees and Liturgy Committees; coordination of Faith formation and RCIA; coordination of sacramental preparation of children; coordination of children’s liturgy; music and liturgy ministry coordination and development, including ministry of the sick and dying; and coordination of regular ecumenical engagement with local Anglican, Uniting and Baptist churches. I loved the role! The journey continued for seven years and involved working with four different Parish Priests, more than ten Assistant Priests and a wealth of parishioners. Ultimately, I took on the project management role of bringing these parishes and the neighbouring parish of Willoughby together to form the Parish of Lower North Shore. I was saddened to leave in 2011 but equally enlivened by the many possibilities opened up in taking up a new Diocesan role in Wollongong.

Gordon: When and where did you serve as Coordinator of Liturgy and Coordinator of Liturgy and Ministry and what were your primary responsibilities?

Paul: In 2011 the Diocese of Wollongong advertised for a full time Coordinator of Liturgy. I felt enormously blessed when Bishop Peter Ingham appointed me to the role. It was just as the new Roman Missal was being introduced. I had been involved with the Broken Bay Diocesan Liturgy Commission for a number of years and helped establish the Broken Bay Music Ministry Forum. This new role in Wollongong opened up opportunities to further build the role of liturgy and music in evangelisation at a diocesan and national scale. The Wollongong diocese had recently published their five year strategic plan and liturgy would play a major part. So Margaret and I, together with our youngest son, moved to Wollongong on a new adventure open to wondrous possibilities.

Working closely with Bishop Peter, my primary responsibility was to educate and foster people for liturgical ministry in our parishes; people to become bearers of Christ’s love to our part of the world. The journey was extraordinarily bountiful, developing Diocesan policies for sacraments for people with disabilities; launching guidelines and programs for the development of liturgy and liturgical music ministry; establishing liturgical music as a major feature of the Diocese’s annual Lenten Programs; establishing Diocesan scholarships for cantors and accompanists; establishing the Diocesan Choir; and establishing a certificate level course in liturgy in Wollongong, based on content developed by the Catholic Institute of Sydney and delivered by a number of expert liturgists. During this time I worked as a Consultant to the National Liturgical Council and a founding member in the establishment of the Australian Pastoral Musicians Network (APMN).

The highlight was hosting the four-day Lift Up Your Hearts conference in 2014 to (1) commemorate the 50th anniversary of Vatican II, (2) host the biennial National Liturgical Council meeting, and (3) celebrate the first biennial conference of the APMN. The conference was a huge success, with keynotes by national and international leaders, and more than 600 delegates.

As the Diocese responded to the need to better manage professional standards and more transparent ministry authorisation and renewal, I was asked to step up to the broader role of Coordinator of Liturgy and Ministry in 2016. Additional staff were added to support the expanded role. A major part of my new responsibilities was the implementation of CathLink, the Diocesan Contact Management and Volunteer Ministry Authorisation System.

Gordon: Where did you study Music and what was your favorite course and why was it your favorite?

Paul: My study of music began as a young child when I watched with great fascination my Nanna O’Sullivan playing piano and singing at Christmas family gatherings. Everybody joined in and enjoyed themselves immensely. At the age of ten I began singing as a treble in the school choir. Performing at eisteddfods around Victoria helped develop my love for music. During my secondary schooling I learnt piano performance and music theory through the syllabuses and examinations conducted by the Australian Music Examinations Board (AMEB).

I always had an immense fascination with pop and rock music. Towards the end of my secondary schooling I began working in bands, initially as a bass player. While attending university and in the initial years of my sales career, I worked 2-3 times a week as a piano player and singer in a 50/50 Jazz/Pop band. In early 1978 I joined a pub rock band, Australian Crawl, developing and rehearsing a repertoire of new music. In August 1978 after the band had suffered some setbacks, I left the band, sold the gear and bought myself a new Honda coupe to concentrate on my sales career with Burroughs. Twelve months later, when Australian Crawl launched their first single Beautiful People, Marg and I were preparing for our first move to Sydney, where I took on a national product management and marketing role.

My next significant study of music came when I was a member of the Holy Name Wahroonga Choir in the nineties. This is one of the pre-eminent choirs in Sydney and I had the privilege to work with them as a tenor on many classic works of sacred music, including Gregorian Chant, classical polyphony and modern choral masterpieces. During that time I also made a close study of contemporary music trends in worship, especially Geoff Bullock at Hillsong, and began introducing contemporary music repertoire to the WYSPERS group in the 6pm youth Mass at Holy Name Wahroonga.

Some years later I studied music at a formal post-graduate level as part of my Master of Arts (Liturgy). One of my favourite units of study was THEO693 Liturgical Music, which spanned the history of sacred music and liturgical music since Vatican II, including hymnody and chant, and their application to the sacraments and rites of the Church. The unit included important insights into liturgical music performance. My most favoured unit was LSG596 Long Essay, which afforded me extensive research and study of the history and development of sacred music and liturgical song as a basis for probing the pastoral implications of John Paul II’s Chirograph for the Centenary of the Motu Proprio “Tra Le Sollecitudinini” on Sacred Music. I loved the opportunity to delve into the massive amount of study in this area in recent years, discovering truly significant insights into the nature of music and its relationship with liturgy. My research and thesis led to the publication of a number of articles in peer-reviewed journals, including Worship’s principal article on this papal document (volume 82, number 5, September 2008, Liturgical Press: Collegeville, MN).

Gordon: When did you start composing and what are some of the works that you have composed?

Paul: I began composing in my first year at university (1972), initially writing songs reflecting on my experiences of life. I had a passion for poetry, spanning Shakespeare to Lowell to Dylan to Bowie. Two of my brothers are poets and I set many of their verses to music during the eighties and nineties. From 1975, as a member of the Crosswinds jazz/ pop band, I began writing instrumental music for improvisation on piano, saxophone, bass and drums.

My first liturgical music composition Open Our Eyes dates from 1992 at St Anthony’s Parish Glen Huntly in Melbourne. It is a simple song and has been used at children’s Confirmations for many years. It is included in Liturgical Song’s Hymns and Spiritual Songs publication (2019).

My first major work, Mass of Glory and Praise, was initially published in 2004. My first volume of Psalms For All Time, a collection of seasonal psalms appealing to contemporary sensibilities, was published in 2007. Intended as a resource for introducing psalmody into parishes, Psalms For All Time has proved to be very popular, especially since the inclusion of a number of psalms from the volume 1 and 2 collections in the annual Wollongong Diocesan Lenten Programs, and most recently in the Mass For You At Home weekly television broadcasts (CBS/Network TEN).

In 2008 in preparation for the launch of the 3rd Edition of the Roman Missal (2010), I composed a chant Mass - Mass of the Saints. The chant is based on motifs from the Gregorian Missa de Angelis. The setting includes a simple guitar accompaniment. It is a very easy and accessible setting of the Mass and has been enthusiastically taken up by the seminary in Homebush, NSW and more recently by Mass For You At Home (CBS/Network TEN).

Also in 2008 I partnered with The Christian Brothers and Willow Publishing to undertake the adaptation of Colin D. Smith’s Mass Shalom to the new texts of the 3rd Edition of the Roman Missal. This has proved to be highly successful, elevating Mass Shalom (2010 edition) to become the second most popular Mass setting in use in Australia, according to One License records. With the adaptation to 3rd Edition Roman Missal, my Mass of Glory and Praise (2010 edition) has now become the third most popular Mass setting in use in Australia. I am currently producing volumes 3 and 4 of Psalms For All Time, to provide a complete set of psalm settings for the three year lectionary cycle.

In recent times I have turned my attention to hymns and spiritual songs, seeking to draw out critical insights of the New Testament for living in the twenty-first century. Power Of The Spirit was adopted as Wollongong Diocese’s Plenary Council preparation hymn and featured at the 2019 Australian Pastoral Musicians Network Conference in Melbourne. It draws on a number of New Testament motifs, especially from Acts and Revelation and continues to grow in popularity as an Easter season and Confirmation hymn.

Personally, I am deeply influenced by Irish poet and author John O’Donohue. His exploration of Celtic spirituality and insights into the relationship of the body, the soul, the heart and The Other are deeply fascinating. My most recent compositions seek to bring together scripture and Celtic spirituality to express our inmost feelings about our relationships with each other and The Other.

Gordon: When and why did you launch Liturgical Song and provide an overview of Liturgical Song?

Paul: Liturgical Song was originally established as my personal website to provide information about my compositions and my research on liturgy and music. In 2010 I further developed the website to provide much needed on-line shopping access for the newly released Mass settings as well as my Psalms For All Time. Towards the end of 2015 I set my long term ambitions for liturgical music and publishing in a world of rapidly changing music technologies. I then established Liturgical Song in 2016 as a publishing business, initially carrying my own catalogue and then expanding to publish other Australian liturgical music composers.

The business was publicly launched at the 2017 Australian Pastoral Musician's Network Conference in Perth. Liturgical Song is set up as a small publishing business with access to local Australian printers who work to small economic order quantities. As a small business, it features low-cost in-house warehousing, in-house spiral-binding, and local distribution capabilities. In addition, Liturgical Song has invested in digital sales, marketing and distribution technologies, including capabilities for individual digital resource downloads as well as digital subscription services at reasonable cost.

My ambitions for Liturgical Song are to: (1) develop a broad range of liturgical music resources available to parishes and schools at a reasonable cost, with a particular focus on Australia and New Zealand. This includes publishing other composers, such as Roger Heagney, Anne Millard, Fiona Dyball and others as they seek to make their works more widely available. (2) provide publishing services at a reasonable cost to further develop accessibility to resources especially digital resources for projection, worship aids and musicians (guitarists, choirs and accompanists).

Gordon: When did you start as a Member of the Council of National Liturgical Music Council of the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference and what are your responsibilities?

Paul: Following my founding role in the establishment of the Australian Pastoral Musicians Network and my appointment as a Consultant to the National Liturgy Council in 2011, Bishop Pat O’Regan appointed me as a Member of the National Liturgical Music Council in June 2016. I had previously served the Council since 2012 as a member of the so-called “fourth” committee for the evaluation of contemporary repertoire for the new Catholic Worship Book II hymnal (CWBII). I bring to the Council my experience from leadership roles with (1) the Broken Bay Music Ministry Forum 2005-2011, (2) the “fourth” committee 2012-2013, and (3) the establishment of the Australian Pastoral Musicians Network 2007-2011. My responsibilities on Council have been to advise on (1) exemplars of emerging contemporary music, (2) the development of resources for promoting CWBII, (3) the development of strategies for digitisation of CWBII.

The Board’s primary areas of focus are on promoting CWBII and developing guidelines for liturgical music and music ministry. I recently resigned from the Council, effective October 2021, in order to avoid potential conflict of interest between my advisory role as a Member of Council and my role as CEO of Liturgical Song. Liturgical Song subsequently tendered for work in the digitisation of CWBII and was awarded a contract just prior to Christmas 2021. Liturgical Song is currently working for the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference in the development of digital resources for the Catholic Worship Book II hymnal.

Gordon; Thank you for an exceptional interview.

Paul’s compositions can be viewed on the following video media: Mass For You At Home, YouTubes produced by Diocese of Wollongong featuring Paul’s Psalms For All Time and Mass of the Saints Weekly Catholic Mass broadcast by TEN Network for those unable to travel to church, featuring Paul’s Psalms For All Time and Mass of the Saints

Closing Mass for the First Assembly of the Fifth Plenary Council of Australia, featuring Mass Shalom

Plenary Council Mass – Friday, October 8, 2021, featuring responsorial psalm Lord, let your mercy be on us (5:15) and Power of the Spirit (36:36) Mass at St Ignatius Parish Toowong, featuring Mass of Glory and Praise (e.g. Alleluia at start, Holy Holy Holy at 19:16) Diocese of Wollongong YouTube site. Masses feature my Psalms For All Time and Mass of the Saints. Sample Mass featuring The Lord Is My Shepherd (6:57) Power of the Spirit Diocese of Wollongong parish resource

Paul’s compositions can be heard on the following audio media: samples of the Responsorial Psalms from the Diocese of Wollongong’s 2022 Lenten Program Remember.

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