As the music director at Immaculate Conception Catholic Church in Clinton, Mary Goodwin enjoys doing the Lord’s work through harmony, which touches her and others in many ways.
That passion led her to being part of a historic moment for The Diocese of Raleigh, with the dedication of the Holy Name of Jesus Cathedral — one of the largest in the United States. She was one of the people sitting in the choir loft.
“It was the biggest honor of my life to be invited to sing in that choir,” Goodwin said. “You could not help but to feel the presence of the Lord in that place.”
The Wednesday event brought thousands of people to the 44,000-square-foot building. More than 130 priests, 50 deacons and 15 seminarians attended. It included the ceremonial passing of a key to the cathedral. People involved in building the cathedral presented the key to Bishop Michael F. Burbidge. He passed it on to the successor Bishop Luis Zarama ,who will be installed as Raleigh’s sixth bishop on Aug. 29.
During the dedication, Burbidge blessed water and it was later sprinkled on the walls and alter. More than 20 hymns were performed. One of them was “I Will Praise Your Name Forever. It was composed by Michael J. Accurso, Diocesan Director of Sacred Music.
“It was absolutely gorgeous,” Goodwin said. “Once you sing it, you just keep wanting to sing it. It’s beautiful.”
Goodwin was invited by Accurso to take part. She sang with believers from different choirs across North Carolina. Before the big day, the were required to rehearse for 10 days and only a small amount of absences were allowed. The ensemble with about 80 musicians met in Greensboro, Greenville, Cary and Raleigh. She also made contributions through her piano skills.
“I didn’t want to miss them,” Goodwin said about sessions. “Just to get with them and sing was a wonderful experience.”
Her love of music began during her childhood with her Aunt Minnie Woodard, an organ player at Rowan Baptist Church.
“I used to watch her and I would want to sit where I could watch her feet,” Goodwin said while reflecting on moments in her youth. “I wanted to do that one day.”
Goodwin took lessons and after graduating from high school, she earned a bachelor’s degree in music from St. Andrews Presbyterian College, which is now known as St. Andrews University. She later played at several churches in Salisbury and taught in schools before moving back to Clinton. For a brief time, she educated students from the Hobbton and Union areas in Sampson County. After retiring, she began having lessons in her home.
“I tell that it takes time and a lot of hard work,” she said. “You’re not just going to sit down and start playing.”
She was asked by Dr. Hamp Hubbard to play at Immaculate Conception Catholic Church, during his illness and before his death. She’s been at the church for close to 20 years. Playing the notes to hymns is something she enjoys doing.
“The Lord speaks to me through music,” she said.
In her college days, a lot of people questioned why she decided to focus on music and made it seem trivial. After seeking guidance from one of her professors, she was asked what music means to her.
“I could hardly speak and I said ‘I guess it means everything,’” Goodwin said. “And it has. I knew what I wanted to do for a long time. It’s blessed my whole life though the good times and the bad times.”
Goodwin also enjoys spending time at Southwood and Mary Gran Nursing Center, which was built by her late parents, Mary Lou and Granville Wallace. When Goodwin is not singing or touching piano keys, she likes to garden.
“I love my flowers,” she said with a smile.
She is also a member of the National Guild of Piano Teachers and the North Carolina Music Teachers Association (NCMTA). Through NCTMA, her students perform at local nursing homes during Christmas time and compete in other events.
“I just want to thank the dear Lord for the gift that he’s given me,” she said.