Rick Gibala, director of music at the Cathedral of St. Thomas More and diocesan coordinator of music, considers his full-time job a vocation. (GRETCHEN R. CROWE | CATHOLIC HERALD)
...Deftly working the pipe organ pedals with his feet, Rick Gibala, the director of music at the Arlington church and coordinator of music for the diocese, occasionally was able to lift his hands from the three-tiered keyboard to direct his choir.
Eyes glancing from the sheet music to his
robed singers, the 60-year-old Gibala
played the organ and conducted the choir like he
had been doing it, well, since he
was a kid , which he
has.An early startGibala
was in high school when he
took a job as church organist for his
home parish of St. Mary
in McKeesport, Pa., a southeast suburb of Pittsburgh.Every morning at 7, Gibala played the organ at back-to-back daily Masses , a ministry that continued even while enrolled at Point Park University 15 miles away.
"I literally played my way through college," Gibala
said, sitting in the basement of the cathedral, where his
current office is located. His
musical training, however, began even earlier.Neither his
mother, Bernice, nor his
father, Ted, played an instrument or sang, but Gibala
said that his
parents instilled their joint love of music into their three sons. In Gibala's
took what he
was given and ran with it.He
studied the piano, clarinet and the organ , his
great love , and joined the choir in the third grade.His
singing days were numbered, however, five years later, when Gibala's
voice changed and, inexplicably, his
left vocal chord was paralyzed.Though now unable to carry a tune, Gibala
study of music, throwing all his
energy into his
now "sings" through the pipe organ , what he
calls "the king of instruments."With all of its keys, pedals and stops, playing the organ has always come naturally to him, he
said, and he
is "grateful to God every day for that gift."Gibala
also was given the gift of faith , instilled in him through his
mother's teachings and his
father's quiet example.Gibala
still remembers his
father kneeling by the bed in prayer every night."It was his
modeling that taught us what (we) had to do," Gibala
said.Eventually, "it becomes part of your life."The family was poor, but it didn't matter."We had God, we had our faith, we had a happy household," Gibala
said."If you put God first, everything else falls into place."A professional ministerWhen Gibala
graduated from college in 1970, he
degrees in early childhood education and music to work.Named director of music at St. Winifred Parish in Pittsburgh, he also taught in the parochial school , literally working seven days a week teaching school and leading the music for the parish Masses.Father Jeremiah O'Shea, now senior priest at St. Valentine Church in Bethel Park, Pa., was the pastor of St. Winifred while Gibala was there.
Father O'Shea said Gibala
had the talent and the personality skills to create community within both his choirs and the parish.
...While at St. Winifred, Gibala became the first lay person appointed music director for the Diocese of Pittsburgh.He
work with the school for his
diocesan responsibilities and focused on starting a diocesan choir, which is still thriving.He
also created a local chapter of the National Association of Pastoral Musicians
, too, is grateful for this knowledge and understanding."Music has a way of helping unfold the liturgical year in a very beautiful way," Gibala
said.On Easter Sunday, when the organ plays "Jesus Christ is Risen Today
," "you can feel the resurrection."In ArlingtonIn 1986, Gibala's work with NPM took him from Pennsylvania to Virginia, where he became national chapter coordinator and accepted a position as the music director at St. Catherine of Siena Parish in Great Falls.
In 1990, he
current position at the cathedral, hired by then-rector Msgr.
...With the arrival of Arlington Bishop Paul S. Loverde to the Arlington Diocese in 1999, Gibala was appointed as diocesan coordinator of music.
...As coordinator, Gibala formed and now conducts the diocesan choir, which, with its approximately 200 representatives from throughout the diocese, sings at events like ordinations and rites of election.
For two years, one of those representatives was now-seminarian Stephen Schultz, who credited Gibala's
leadership for bringing the choir together.
Though Schultz no longer is able to sing with the choir, the members pray for him every time they convene, Gibala
If one thing is clear about Gibala's
nearly lifelong involvement with Church music, it is that he
considers it a vocation , a ministry, not a job. Gibala
said that while at Mass, he
is not performing, but instead leading prayer."It's not about me , I'm just helping people pray," he
said."When I direct our choir, and they're singing, I just know God is there.God is in this music."Gibala
favors the compositions of 16th-century composer Giovanni Pierluigi da Palestrina, specifically "Sicut Cervus;" and Johann Sebastian Bach's "Prelude and Fugue (St. Anne)" for the organ.
...Still involved with NPM, Gibala now serves as the chair of the division for diocesan music directors.
spare time, he
loves to cook, and has put together a cookbook made especially for musicians."I also love to have friends over , sitting around the table," Gibala
said.But most of his
time is taken up with music, one of the reasons Gibala said he's
married to his
ministry."It's a calling," Gibala