For some, the path to faith isn’t through the pulpit — it’s through the choir.

This summer, William Buckley, ’14, got the chance to experience firsthand the instrumental role that music plays in the church when he accepted the position of music ministry intern at St. Agnes Cathedral in Rockville Centre, N.Y.

The senior was no stranger to music ministry. Early on at Richmond, he became involved with both Kairos and the Catholic Campus Ministry (CCM), playing piano at Sunday mass as well as singing in the choir. So when Director of Spiritual Formation Bryn Taylor from the Office of the Chaplaincy told him about the Chaplaincy Summer Internships, part of the UR Summer Fellowships program, and Buckley contacted his home parish at St. Agnes about internship possibilities, all the pieces seemed to fall into place.

“I wanted my internship to be related to music in some way,” says Buckley, who is working toward both a music major and a mathematics minor. “Before I heard about this, I was having trouble finding something that seemed like a good fit for me.”

St. Agnes proved an ideal place for Buckley to build on the music ministry skills he’d developed at Richmond. Not only did the parish serve a larger pool of people than the campus chapel — as the seat of the diocese of Rockville Centre, the cathedral serves more than 5,200 households — but the internship called on him to participate in new duties, such as teaching, and to take on a heavier load of responsibility in selecting music, as well as playing piano and singing at services.

Buckley says he was particularly nervous about teaching piano to children in the parish, but after talking with Richard Becker, associate professor of music and piano instructor at Richmond, he was able to formulate a good approach.

“[Becker] said to listen to them and figure out what they’re interested in,” says Buckley. “It’s important with little kids to let them play what they want to play and have fun with it so they keep doing music.”

Music selection was a particularly important component of the internship, and one that Buckley found compelling. Although the readings used at each weekly service are set by higher church authorities, the choice of music to accompany those readings is left to each church.

“The music offers another way for people to participate in the Sunday worship at the church, so it has to be relevant to the liturgy itself, but it also has to be something the people can relate to,” says Buckley. “You also have to take into consideration, will this song be singable for the mass? Will they be interested in singing it? So there are two sides of it.”

In addition to the support he received at the church in carrying out his duties, Buckley also benefited from the guidance of Bryn Taylor back at Richmond. Together, the two set up a schedule of readings concerning both music ministry and service to the church that would be relevant to what he was doing at St. Agnes, and Buckley wrote short reflection papers on his experience every other week.

“One thing I was concerned about when I started was that [the church was] such a huge place with such a huge number of people. How could I really connect with people individually?” Buckley remembers. But his fears were quickly set to rest by the community he found in Rockville Centre. When St. Agnes’ music director landed in the hospital with heart troubles, the congregation quickly stepped up, volunteering to help in the music office, fill in as organists, play music at the masses, and more.

“That showed me that even in this sort of environment, you can have an impact on people,” says Buckley. “The congregation is really strong because of everybody’s individual commitment to it.”

This fall, Buckley will return to Richmond with a renewed commitment and a broader outlook on his future.

“A lot of my views on music ministry were confirmed by the experiences I had,” he sums it up. “The idea of music ministry as a career became more realistic or more possible in my mind after having this experience.”