Susan HooKong-Taylor, a Toronto Catholic musician, runs The Beads, an initiative to share a culture of life through the arts. Photo by Bill Wittman

Music ministry aims for the ‘fleshing out of Catholic culture’

By 
  • January 14, 2012

TORONTO - Musician Susan HooKong-Taylor is doing everything she can in her music ministry to build up the body of Christ.

One way is through a Catholic arts initiative called The Beads.

“The Beads is an initiative that allows people to connect and then to express, to experience and to share a culture of life through the arts,” HooKong-Taylor told The Catholic Register.

“The idea is getting people together in a comfortable environment where we can… enjoy some music or hear from a writer, maybe see some visual art. It’s kind of a fleshing out of Catholic culture.”

The next event takes place on Jan. 28 and will feature musician John Dawson, a guitarist and one of the Canadian composers of the new Mass settings.

The name itself came about from HooKong-Taylor’s devotion to Our Lady.

“I realized that as Catholic artists we gaze on the face of Christ through the eyes of Mary and we reflect on the life of Christ through the heart of Mary, which is the activity of the Holy Rosary,” she said.

Founded by HooKong-Taylor in 2004, The Beads has found a new home since the fall at The Family Treehouse Café. Prior to that, it was held at various venues throughout the city.

Located in Scarborough, their new venue supports the culture of life by donating all proceeds to the Missionaries of the Poor in Jamaica, in particular a new facility called Holy Innocents which deals with women in crisis, the Marguerite Bourgeoys Family Centre and the Sisters of Life in Toronto.

Started in 2010 by Margaret and Casey Smith, the café offers volunteer opportunities six days a week for those interested in building the culture of life. 

“And so what we’re doing is supporting them by having the music come through there and all the proceeds from what we do goes to what they’re supporting,” said HooKong-Taylor.

“It is humbling to be connected with what they are doing.”

Some past performers at The Beads include the Franciscan Friars of Renewal, Julie Leahy (a relative of the musical group Leahy) and Michael O’Brien. The event takes place every two months, she said.

HooKong-Taylor is no stranger to performing herself. She has dedicated her life to music.

Co-founder of Deep Water Sound, a record company she started with musician Ana Da Costa, their music is “inspirational and spiritual,” she said. They’ve done praise and worship music, Marian music and devotional music like the Divine Mercy Chaplet, she said.

“It’s all in the embrace of a way in which we are living and moving through our lives in faith.”

The duo also co-wrote the “Song of the Cross” for World Youth Day 2002 in Toronto and HooKong-Taylor was the English lead for the WYD theme song “Light of the World.”

During the day, she is a music teacher with the Toronto Catholic District School Board, teaching at St. Helen, Senhor Santo Cristo and St. Rita Catholic Schools. She’s also the music director for St. Mary’s English choir in Toronto.

Looking forward, HooKong-Taylor is hoping to see different ideas come forward for The Beads, including hosting poets and having a songwriters evening.

HooKong-Taylor has plenty on her plate, but she references the parable of the talents, saying, “When you’ve been given a lot, there’s a lot expected of you.”

Admission for the Jan. 28 event is $10. For more information, see www.familytreehousecafe.com or deepwatersound.ca.

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