Music, especially Liturgical music, has always been a passion for Colleen Puscas. Some 30 years ago, she was the director of liturgy and music at Christ the Teacher Parish/Newman Center at Northern Illinois University. Then her husband, Michael, had a job opportunity in Connecticut, so she and her family moved to Colchester.
One Sunday morning, after moving there, the family was running late preparing their four children for church, so they ended up attending a later Mass, 11 a.m. at St. Andrew Church. That was the first time Colleen heard the choir sing for Mass, and although the choir was composed of only a dozen members, she was struck by their spirit.
Sometime after that, the pastor, having learned of her credentials (master’s degrees in Liturgy and Music Composition), offered her the job of director of music. Since then, for the past 28 years, she has not only provided St. Andrew Church with beautiful liturgical music, but 16 Passion Plays, 12 choir concert performances around the world, and assorted Madrigals and dinner/musical concerts.
The St. Andrew choir calls itself the “Gumby Choir” (referring to Art Clokey’s 1950 clay animation figure who could bend and flex in any position), because of the choir’s ability to bend and flex to the musical challenges offered by Colleen. And indeed bend and flex they did.
Twenty years ago Colleen began formulating what was to be her magnum opus, the St. Andrew Passion Play. Colleen’s version can actually be referred to as “The life of Christ and His Passion,” as it begins with the nativity, progresses through major events of the life of Christ, and culminates with the Crucifixion and Resurrection.
Up until 2020, when performances were curtailed due to Covid restrictions, she had written and produced 16 unique versions. Each included 120 to 150 actors and dancers, numerous stagehands and behind-the-scenes personnel, professional sound and lighting equipment, and of course the Gumby choir. “Launching a Passion Play was a dream come true, as I know hundreds of people were touched by the Spirit of God as they watched the Gospel come to life,” Colleen said.
However, the Gumby choir had more bending and flexing ahead of them. At a conference she attended, Colleen came across a workshop entitled,”Take your Choir to Rome.” She inquired and had a discussion about the possibility of the St. Andrew choir singing at the Vatican. Seven months later, in October 1998, the Gumby choir was in Rome singing for Pope St. John Paul II, on the occasion of his 20th anniversary as the Holy Father. This concert was the first of 11 more venues where the Gumbies performed, including: Lourdes, Fatima, Athens, Dublin, Salzburg and others.
Colleen is now moving on to new adventures in her life. Sadly, on Nov. 27, 2021, her husband of 42 years, Deacon Michael Puscas, passed away.
“Michael’s sudden journey to eternity changed almost everything about my life and caused me, with great sadness and intentionality, to seek the Lord’s counsel regarding my future,” Colleen said.
As Providence would have it, she was offered the position of director of music and liturgy at Our Lady of Grace Parish in Noblesville, Indiana, the very parish where her daughter, Julia, is the director of youth ministry.
“I have been inordinately happy to serve the parish of St Andrew for most of my adult life. The Principal Choir and the Young People’s Choir have been my joy,” she said.
Colleen believes that, “Everybody has a gift that God has given them and it is just so unsettling to me that people use their gifts for something other than worshiping God.”
She has truly used her gifts to worship and praise God. We thank her for her faithful service, and pray for her continued success.
All are invited to bid farewell to Colleen after each Mass, at St. Andrew Church, Colchester, September 24th and 25th.
By Deacon Ben LoCasto