Singing priest now Anglican

Published June 1, 2000

Rev. Mark Curtis is Canada’s singing priest.

HE is known as Canada’s singing priest and Rev. Mark J. Curtis has spent the past 20 years evolving his unique ministry. Now, he is doing so under the auspices of the Anglican Church.

Married in January 1998, the former Roman Catholic priest was received into the Anglican Church of Canada the following year by Bishop Ralph Spence of the Diocese of Niagara. He currently works part-time as chaplain of St. Mildred’s-Lightbourn School, a girls’ school in Oakville, Ont., and has a busy touring schedule.

“It’s nice to have a home,” he said, “and a wonderful bishop who has embraced me and encouraged me to use my gifts.”

His progression from Roman Catholic priest to Anglican priest hasn’t been completely smooth. As a Catholic priest, “there was an unhappiness, a restlessness. I didn’t feel complete. I felt a need for a relationship, for marriage,” he said.

When asked how he met his wife, Mr. Curtis said, “I buried Rita (Albin)’s husband,” when a parish priest at Holy Rosary R.C. Church in Milton, Ont. “I asked Rita if she’d like to come on board” to help with his music engagements and they were “drawn into a more personal relationship.”

His wife serves as promotions manager as he tours North America for 175-200 concerts a year. He composes Christian songs, sings and plays guitar. While this aspect of his vocation is in overdrive now, Mr. Curtis’ life has always been filled with music.

“The gift of music has always been in my life and family,” he said. “Since I was a young child, music of all kinds echoed throughout our home, instilling in me a desire to write and sing songs of life, love, and life’s sorrows.”

That description is apt for the music Mr. Curtis has been recording since 1978. His 12th album, The Bridge To Us All is due out in early summer. He has a knack for infectious rhythms, and his tuneful music expresses his faith.

“I believe my music proclaims a kingdom ruled by the power of love to another kingdom ruled by the love of power. Somewhere in this musical experience, a communion of grace takes place and people embrace God through the gift of a song and the interaction which occurs among each audience.”

That being said, Mr. Curtis is adamant he does not want to be “pigeonholed.” That is why you don’t see him on the Crossroads Network or on 100 Huntley Street, though his music would be at home on both formats. Indeed, while Mr. Curtis does the bulk of his work for congregations or for group conferences and retreats, one may also see him singing the national anthem before a Maple Leafs game at the Air Canada Centre or find him on the set of a movie as an adviser, as was the case last fall with the Canadian production Superstar.

Occasionally, his change of denominations has been a problem. One invitation to appear at a school fell through, he said, since one of the priests said the school did not want any priests who had resigned.

Ms. Albin has three children and Mr. Curtis noted, “I went from fatherhood to fatherhood overnight,” adding that his sudden status as a married man caused “an awkwardness” for his four brothers and his father. (His mother passed away several years ago.)

He said Courtnie, 17, Laura, 13, and Grant, 9, seem to have weathered the huge change in their lives since he hasn’t had to move to a parish and “they haven’t been uprooted” from Milton.

He and Ms. Albin also champion various philanthropies.

“One particular charity which I personally send funds to through the sales of my recordings is Rose Cherry’s Home, Ontario’s first hospice for terminally and chronically ill children.” Named after hockey broadcaster Don Cherry’s late wife, the home is located just north of Milton.

The Hamilton native attended St. Peter’s Seminary in London before service as a Roman Catholic priest in southern Ontario. “I didn’t find that many opportunities to use my music in my former church,” he said. Now, the man who has opened concerts for Johnny Mathis and worked with Red Skelton before entering seminary is able to combine all his gifts.

“Bishop Spence has given me the freedom to do that,” Mr. Curtis said. “My music and priesthood are both gifts from God which together allow me personally to experience the power of God’s love in so many ways.”

Information about Mark Curtis’s recordings and concert appearances is available at Wordsong Communications, 420 Main St. E., Suite 496, Milton, ON, L9T 5G3, 905-876-3379, e-mail [email protected].


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