Sr. Maryann Golonka has plenty to keep her busy these days. She serves on several boards of directors, contributes to spiritual life and liturgies at the Villa, and dabbles in writing her own music.
Though she currently serves as the sponsor director at Mercy Health Youngstown, Sr. Maryann has been involved with the board of directors there since 2010. She also serves as the chair of the Quality and Patient Safety committee.
“It’s my job to make sure what’s happening is according to Catholic healthcare teaching and the directives of the Catholic Church,” she says of her work with the board. “We're reflecting the healing ministry of Jesus, so I really get into the point—how does this decision affect the people that we are trying to serve? If we don't do this, or if we do that, will those people feel abandoned?”
Sr. Maryann also serves on the board of the Laurel Lake Foundation in Hudson, Ohio, where she is the chair of the Grants Disbursement committee.
At the Villa, Sr. Maryann is active in leading Word services, preparing reflections, cantoring for Mass, and filling in as a musician for services in Magnificat Chapel as needed. Prior to the pandemic, she coordinated Villa events, such as Harvest Day and Nativity Display, and the Adopt a Site program.
Though what she really enjoys doing is writing music. Her love of music has been a lifelong passion influenced by her Polish heritage, and her grandparents really fostered that interest.
“When I was six years old, my grandfather decided I should take music lessons,” Sr. Maryann said. “He brought home an accordion and made arrangements [for the lessons]. Every Saturday morning, my grandmother would take me to downtown New Castle to the music store and I would have my lesson.”
Well, after six months she had mastered the instrument and her grandfather had to buy her a larger one!
“Now this is 1952 and this accordion cost $500,” Sr. Maryann related. “My grandfather was a laborer. He paid $5 a month for that accordion until he paid it off. I still have it and I do dig it out every once in a while.”
She began writing her own music when she was in the novitiate. While helping with the retreat ministry and doing tasks such as setting up the environment for Mass, Sr. Maryann recalls one of the other sisters wishing there was specific music for the upcoming Feast of the Transfiguration.
“I thought about that, and I read the readings and wrote something,” she said. “I threw this thing together and I presented it to the sister, and I said, ‘Oh, I wrote this, what do you think?’ Well, she decided to use it, so that was the beginning.”
Sr. Maryann has continued to write throughout the years, sharing her pieces at various parishes she’s attended and also at the Villa. Her most recent works are a children’s praise song she wrote on retreat last year and a composition using the text from another HM Sister’s original prayer. She would like to eventually publish her music, but according to her she has a unique writing style that makes it a little difficult to translate to standard formats.
One piece that really resonates for her is the refrain in a song she wrote while on sabbatical in North Carolina a number of years ago. After a difficult drive full of setbacks, her retreat director told her to write a song about it. What she produced not only speaks to her experience of making it to the retreat center, but also to a universal human experience.
“We are all on a journey. At times the road is smooth,” the lyrics read. “Sometimes the road is rough and winding. God will not leave us. We'll be shown the way.”
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