Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
December 28, 2009
Talarico serves in every way
Through youth ministry, RCIA, music ministry, school chaplain has earned this year's Worker in the Vineyard Award
WESTERN CATHOLIC REPORTER
You may not have noticed it but Sandra Talarico's name is synonymous with service around the Edmonton Archdiocese.
For many years Talarico has quietly gone about doing whatever the Church asks of her - be it to serve in a parish, an advisory board or a school.
She is present at all major Church events - from Scripturefest to the Nothing More Beautiful conferences, where she sings in the choir.
Talarico is well known for her work on the archdiocesan Youth Commission, having attended four World Youth Days. She is still at it, helping at youth rallies and preparing the liturgies at youth events.
She has volunteered with Catholic Social Services' Sign of Hope Campaign for more than a decade and she may be second only to Sister Annata Brockman in terms of the number of converts she has brought into the Church through the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults.
That's on top of Talarico's 17 years of service with Edmonton Catholic Schools as teacher, religious services coordinator and school chaplain.
LOVE OF THE CHURCH
In recognition of her dedicated service, the Western Catholic Reporter has chosen Talarico as the winner of its 2009 Worker in the Vineyard Award.
"I try to support the Church in every way that I can; that's very important to me," Talarico said in a recent interview. "I've always had a love of the Church and I like to do things. I like to get involved in things. I don't have to lead things; I just have to get involved in things."
The Worker in the Vineyard Award recognizes the faith-filled dedication to service of a lay Catholic in the Edmonton Archdiocese. Josephine Pallard won the first award in 2007 and last year it went to Perry Kieftenbeld, a pastoral assistant in the Sturgeon area.
Talarico said she was thrilled when WCR Editor Glen Argan told her she was the WCR's choice for the award. "I never expected something like this," she said. "It was a total surprise for me."
Archbishop Joseph MacNeil, who worked with Talarico during his tenure, described Talarico as "a remarkable person who has been involved in many areas in the diocese, especially with parish councils and RCIA programs and the schools."
"She has a wonderful relationship with students," MacNeil said. "She has a way of encouraging them and inspiring them by her own example and by her kindness, by her friendship. I think she carries those qualities into her work in various parishes. So I think she is well deserving of it."
Talarico is "a wonderful example of how a layperson can make a difference in our Church and our community by her own example, her own efforts," MacNeil continued.
"I think (giving this award to her) is very, very appropriate and I think many, many people will rejoice because they are aware of her quiet inspiration, quiet work with people, not looking for any great accolades, ju st going about doing what the Lord would want her to do."
Talarico is currently a school chaplain at Archbishop MacDonald High School. She came to Mac High after five years in the religious services department of Edmonton Catholic Schools. Prior to that, she had been a chaplain at Louis St. Laurent School.
TIES WITH REDEMPTORISTS
She grew up in St. Alphonsus Parish, which was served by the Redemptorists Fathers for many years.
"My parents live in the area so as a young person that's where we went to church," Talarico says. "That was really for me the place where my love of the church began. It was through the Redemptorists and their example that I started to be involved as a teenager in the music ministry and then in different ministries as the years progressed."
Talarico enjoyed going to church but didn't get involved until she was a teenager. She had studied the organ as a child so she joined the music ministry at St. Alphonsus. "I love music. I love to sing."
But the Talaricos, being Italian, also had a connection with St. Maria Goretti Parish. "That was our cultural parish. We didn't live close by but we went there sometimes."
Sandra's parents - Raffaele and Rosetta Talarico - immigrated to Canada in the 1950s. Sandra is the second of their four children. They all prepared for the sacraments at St. Maria Goretti, even though they were attending St. Alphonsus.
"I still do attend St. Maria Goretti and I'm involved," Talarico explains. "I was on parish council last year and now I'm chairing the liturgy committee."
But it was at St. Alphonsus where Talarico began her record of service. As a teenager she had time, so why not?
"The Church was for me an outlet - something different than the schoolbooks. We would meet and rehearse once a week. I enjoyed the music; I enjoyed the people."
LAY FORMATION PROGRAM
When St. Alphonsus and St. Clare parishes twinned Talarico served in both parishes. When the Redemptorists left St. Alphonsus, she ended up staying at St. Clare's, where she does sacramental preparation and plays the organ.
While completing her education degree at the University of Alberta, Talarico was invited to take part in the first lay formation program offered in the Edmonton Archdiocese.
"It was through that program that I saw the Church, I guess, in a different light," she recalls. "I was involved in the music ministry and in youth ministry at the parish. But it was that program that kind of motivated me to take leadership in the Church. That was a turning point for sure."
Talarico started teaching in 1992. For several years, she worked part-time so she could also serve as pastoral assistant at St. Alphonsus Parish, a job that she did for at least eight years.
In the late 1980s, early 1990s, Archbishop MacNeil invited Talarico to serve on the archdiocesan Youth Commission. She served for five years, even chairing it for a while.
In 1995 MacNeil and the Canadian bishops chose her as one of two Canadian delegates to World Youth Day in the Philippines. In those days, delegates from every country would meet to discuss youth issues for 10 days prior to the actual World Youth Day.
"(The event) gave me an opportunity to see the Church in a different way, I guess from a global perspective," she recalls.
Talarico also attended World Youth Days in Paris in 1997, Rome in 2000 and then in Toronto in 2002. "Toronto was my last one. It was kind of my farewell tour."
She may no longer lead the youth movement but Talarico still supports youth activities in the archdiocese.
"I try to support as an adult, from the outside," she explains. "Mind you, the youth will always have a special place in my heart. I work with youth at the schools."
Andrew Papenbrock, who is in charge of youth and young adult ministry for the archdiocese, has known Talarico for 25 years and thinks the world of her. They have worked together in various projects over the years.
"Her passion for young people is unsurpassed," Papenbrock said. "She is present at all youth events not because she has to be but because she truly cares about young people."
What's most impressive is the way she relates to youth. "She recognizes Jesus in the young people and they see Jesus reflected in her," Papenbrock said.
Currently Talarico helps set up youth liturgies at youth rallies and events.
She has been involved with RCIA work at the parish level for 15 years. She also served on the archdiocesan RCIA Committee for many years until it was disbanded a few years ago. But she still gets calls for help.
"I helped Father Paul (Kavanagh) with the Rite of Election this year and the year before," she said.
She served on the board of the WCR from 2000 to 2005. During the same period she also served on the board of the Foundation of Newman Theological College and St. Joseph Seminary.
She has been part of Catholic Social Services' Sign of Hope committee since the mid-1990s. Right now she is on the advisory board of Catholic Cemeteries and is a member of the choir of the Nothing More Beautiful conference.
Talarico hardly misses any major archdiocesan event and her reason is simple. "I can't say that I'm involved in the Church and not support some of those things," she explains. "I like to be around people who share my faith and I want to be seen as someone who supports the Church."
Talarico's job as a school chaplain is "the perfect job" because it combines the work she was already doing in pastoral ministry in the parishes and the work of being in the classroom as a teacher. "I don't think I've had a more fulfilling job than that in my life," she says.
Chaplaincy is about being present to people but it is also about developing a relationship with people, according to Talarico. "That's what I do first. I develop a relationship. You can't talk about God unless you have a relationship with the person.
"Jesus didn't stand on a corner with a Bible and preach all day. He developed relationships with people and after he developed that relationship with them, he could talk about the word of God."
In order to develop a relationship with students at Mac High, Talarico keeps up with the gossip. She has a subscription to People magazine and reads it cover to cover. She also goes online on YouTube.
"I want to see what the kids are seeing so that when I hear them talking in the hallways or when they are trying to explain something to me, I can see it from their eyes. It is difficult to have a conversation with someone if you are not talking about the same thing."
Talarico lives in a downtown condo and doesn't own a TV set so she is on the Internet everyday. "I like to go for walks," she says. "I'm introverted. People don't know that but I am introverted. I like to be by myself a lot. I like to read."
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