ROCKDALE – The Rev. Michael Magiera recalls the first time he sang in public.
He was in college, part of a choir and “an absolute wreck” even though Magiera knew he could sing well. But, Magiera said, he survived it.
“After that, I was never nervous again,” Magiera said.
The former opera singer became the pastor of St. Joseph Catholic Church at 1329 Belleview Ave. in Rockdale on Dec. 1. He now uses his voice for the Latin Mass he celebrates each Sunday at 10 a.m. and for special projects.
For instance, with the Chicago Symphony and Chicago Lyric Opera orchestras, Magiera recently was the tenor soloist for Mozart’s “Requiem.” The recording, made for the Society of St. John Cantius, is available through Biretta Books.
“I’m one of the fortunate people that was able to live a dream,” Magiera said.
Magiera has, in fact, lived two dreams: to sing professionally and to be a priest. Magiera pursued the first dream soon after he graduated from Millersville University in Pennsylvania. He taught for one year – from 1975 to 1976 – and quickly realized he would rather perform.
“I was going to be a star,” Magiera said.
So in 1976, Magiera entered Philadelphia’s Academy of Vocal Arts. He rented a roach-infested apartment for $120 a month – utilities included – and stretched $48 worth of food stamps over four weeks.
Returning to his parents’ home was always an option, but Magiera had a strong drive to make it on his own.
“I got along very well with my family, but I had to get out, even though it was hard, very, very hard for me,” Magiera said. “I was poor, and it was one of the happiest times of my life.”
Magiera began his career with Michael Korn and The Philadelphia Singers in 1976. Then, for most of the 1980s, Magiera performed in Europe as part of a German touring opera company.
When he returned to the United States – homesick and missing his family – Magiera found work singing for churches of various denominations – as well as synagogues – which many professional singers do, he said.
Eventually, his childhood dream of becoming a priest resurfaced. The Latin Mass, which Magiera preferred, was “making a comeback.” So in 1998, Magiera entered Our Lady of Guadalupe Seminary, the house of study and formation for the Priestly Fraternity of St. Peter. Magiera was ordained in 2005.
As a member of the fraternity, Magiera is not a diocesan priest, but he may serve in parishes with the local bishop’s blessing. St. Joseph’s also offers an English Mass at 4:15 p.m. Saturdays for parishioners who prefer it.
Magiera said guest priests celebrate that Mass, although he is present. In every other way, he serves as St. Joseph’s pastor, including administering the sacraments and conducting baptisms and weddings. He couldn’t be happier.
“I love every minute of it,” Magiera said. “If you love your job, you never work a day in your life.”
For information and Mass times for St. Joseph Catholic Church, call 815-725-4469 or visit fsspjoliet.wordpress.com.
According information supplied by the Rev. Michael Magiera, he:
• Has been a featured soloist with the Philadelphia Singers, The Philadelphia Orchestra, The Opera Company of Philadelphia, The Boston Opera, The Philadelphia Chamber Orchestra, The Pennsylvania Pro Musica, The Pennsylvania Opera Theater, The Baltimore Symphony, The Delaware Symphony, The Lincoln Symphony, The San Diego Opera, The Chautauqua Opera, The Pennsylvania Pro Musica and the Lansdowne Symphony.
• Was a European finalist in the International Luciano Pavarotti Competition.
• Has performed many leading operatic and operetta roles throughout Germany and Switzerland. His leading role repertoire includes “Rigoletto,” “La Traviata,” “Acis and Galatea,” “Julius Caesar,” “Madama Butterfly,” “Pelléas et Mélisande,” “Il Barbiere de Siviglia,” La Cenerentola,” “Albert Herring,” “Die Entführung aus dem Serail,” “Die Zauberflöte,” “Così fan Tutte,” “Il Tabarro,” “Gianni Schicchi,” “Boulevard Solitude,” “La Fille du Régiment,” “La Belle Hélène,” “Der Waffenschmied,” “Der Wildschutz,” “Fra Diavolo,” “Der Bettelstudent,” “Der Vetter aus Dingsda,” “Maske in Blau,” “Der Opernball,” “Eine Nacht in Venedig,” “Die Fledermaus” and many other works.
• Also performs concerts. Magiera’s solo performances include Händel’s “Messiah,” Bach’s “Mass in B minor,” Händel’s “Wedding Anthem for the Prince of Wales,” Bach’s “St. Matthew Passion” and “St. John Passion,” Mendelssohn’s “Elijah,” Britten’s “Les Illuminations,” Orff’s “Carmina Burana and Der Mond,” Haydn’s “The Creation,” Stainer’s “The Crucifixion,” the “Stabat Mater of Rossini and Haydn” and the Berlioz “Requiem.”