At least in retirement, George Bollock won't have to worry about choir members catching on fire.

The music minister at St. Kateri Tekakwitha parish in Schenectady is stepping down after an impressive 43 years on the job, but he'll never forget the Mass when "one of our choir members went by a candle and caught on fire!

"His robe was burning from the back, and the choir members were beating him [on] the back" to put out the flames, the music minister recalled.

He let out a deep laugh. "That was exciting."

Mr. Bollock has countless stories from his four decades leading music ministry: first at Our Lady of Fatima parish in Schenectady, which merged with St. Helen's in Niskayuna in 2012 to become St. Kateri parish; and then at St. Kateri's Rosa Road worship site (the former Our Lady of Fatima Church).

He sums it up by saying that the job has been everything he could have wanted.

"Never had a dull day," he said. "There was always something exciting going on in that parish."

A native of the Albany Diocese, Mr. Bollock grew up in downtown Albany, attending Pine Hills Elementary School (formally Public School 16) and Albany High School.

Always in tune
Music has always been a part of his life. At age 14, he began practicing the organ at First Lutheran Church in Albany. In high school, he became a member of the American Guild of Organists; by his senior year, he was the organist and choir director for First Baptist Church in Albany.

Music and art, he said, were "the two loves in my life." He earned a degree in art education and art history and design from The College of Saint Rose in Albany.

Mr. Bollock was teaching art at St. Gregory's School in Loudonville when the music director at St. Thomas the Apostle parish in Delmar asked him to fill in one Sunday.

After the Mass, he was approached by Mary Carney, who was music director at the time for Our Lady of Fatima parish. She wanted him to serve as her successor.

"She said to me, 'You're the one!' And I said, 'What do you mean, I'm the one?'" Mr. Bollock recounted. "She said, 'I want you to come to my parish, and you should be our organist.'"

She called him every day for two weeks. Though he wasn't looking for a new job, Mr. Bollock eventually agreed to look at the parish's music program.

"I went, and I stayed," he said.

Here I stay
Mr. Bollock became pastoral associate for liturgy and music for Our Lady of Fatima; after the merger with St. Helen's to form St. Kateri's parish, he continued to lead the music at the Rosa Road worship site for Sunday Masses at 8:30 a.m. and 11:30 a.m.

Meanwhile, the music minister of the former St. Helen's parish, Kimberly Conway, continues her work at what is now St. Kateri's Union Street worship site, where the Saturday vigil Mass is offered at 4:30 p.m. and a Sunday Mass at 10 a.m.

As a music minister, Mr. Bollock is the choir director and organist. He oversees the music for funerals and weddings and helps to assemble worship aids and plan liturgies.

He also took on additional duties: When the parish was being renovated, he helped with the planning; during Holy Week, he would assist with decorating the church, calling florists and deciding where certain items should be placed.

"I had to have my art end of this in there somewhere," he joked. Using his artistic talents makes him "feel very fulfilled as a person."

Rev. Robert Longobucco, pastor of St. Kateri's, said Mr. Bollock has "a real sense of our aesthetic" and has been able to help parishioners "see and hear God."

Faith and friends
Promoting the faith has been a mission for the music minister.

"Full appreciation and participation within the liturgy is important, and I think we're accomplishing that," Mr. Bollock said.

That's important when it comes to music: "You have to have [faith] in your heart first before you can sing it in your mouth."

While the parish has not yet selected a new music minister, Father Longobucco told The Evangelist that "you can't replace George. Pastors come and go, but he's been there for 43 years. [Parishioners] know that he cares, especially the choir."

Mr. Bollock said it was the generosity and kindness of parishioners at "probably the friendliest parish I've ever seen in my life" that made him stay in the position for so long.

"The assembly are just wonderful, wonderful giving people. You say, 'We're going to sing this today,' and they really put forth spirit to it."

While that spirit makes saying goodbye difficult, the music minister acknowledged that it was time for the next step in his life.

But "I told them I'll come back for coffee hour," he confessed, laughing. "I've got to see my friends there."

In retirement, Mr. Bollock hopes to spend time meditating on his faith, tapping back into his artistic side and, most importantly, relaxing.

"It's been a wonderful experience for 43 years," he said. "I wouldn't trade it for anything."