At St. Gabriel the Archangel in McKinney, Hair helps others to embrace their faith
By Michael Gresham
The Texas Catholic
Children strained in their seats, repositioning for a better look at the Advent wreath Audrey Hair displayed at the front of the room. They listened intently as she explained what it was, quizzically looking at their parents with smiles of wonder on their faces. Moments later, their voices came together for a song of praise before excitement erupted over the announcement of the month’s birthdays.
The scene at St. Gabriel the Archangel Catholic Church in McKinney marked a display of exuberant, youthful joy mixed with a growing love of the faith.
For Hair, who serves as the director of the parish’s Office of Worship, it’s a scene that has played out countless times over her more than two decades of service at St. Gabriel the Archangel.
“We have these preschool worship sessions once a month, twice during the same week to make sure all the kids have the opportunity to interact,” Hair explained. “It’s just a wonderful time and one of the many wonderful things about our parish. I look forward to it every time.”
A sense of joy exudes from Hair as she talks about her role at the McKinney parish.
“I have the best job on staff and perhaps in the diocese,” said Hair, explaining that in her role she assists the priests and the deacons in the overall prayer life of the church. “I’m the one behind the scenes.”
Though Hair jokingly said that in her job, she is the “one who puts everything in the binder,” the role is much more intensive than that. St. Gabriel the Archangel Catholic Community is home to more than 4,000 families, offering four Masses each weekend — all with Hair working behind the scenes to ensure altar servers, lectors, eucharistic ministers of holy Communion, and musicians are not only scheduled, but also prepared for their tasks.
“We’re a big parish now,” said Hair, a native of Fort Lauderdale, Florida, who moved to McKinney from Atlanta, Ga., in 1996 and has been a part of the St. Gabriel the Archangel community since its inception that year. “We weren’t always that way.”
When it started, the St. Gabriel the Archangel community came together in local elementary schools for the celebration of Mass and fellowship. Her twin daughters — Chaia and Jessica — had been serving as altar servers at their parish in Atlanta prior to the move to Texas. As the community’s pastor at the time, now-Bishop Greg Kelly asked the twin newcomers if they’d be interested in serving as altar servers for St. Gabriel.
“I began volunteering at that time as well, coordinating altar servers and lectors,” Hair said. “After about a year, I transitioned into director of worship.”
As it grew, St. Gabriel the Archangel made its home at its current site in 2001, where it continued to grow and flourish. In 2019, the community dedicated its new permanent sanctuary. Along the way, Hair also continued to grow in her faith, earning a master’s degree in theological studies from the University of Dallas in 2005, and, more recently, certification from HeartPaths, a program that offers training for spiritual directors. Through it all, her love of her faith community and the liturgy also grew.
“I love the concept of full conscious and active participation in the liturgy,” Hair said. “I love that we are doing whatever we can to draw people closer to God, not just in Mass, but also through other prayer traditions.”
In addition to overseeing liturgy and worship, Hair serves as the lead catechist for the parish’s Rite of Christian Initiation for Adults program, which this year has 28 participants.
“As we teach and pray with people who are seeking membership in our Catholic Church, it increases my faith and my love for our faith,” Hair said. “It’s absolutely one of my favorite parts of the job.”
Hair’s involvement with her faith expands beyond the borders of her parish. She also is active in her community, having served on the board of the McKinney Community Food Pantry for more than 20 years.
“I believe that God calls us to help the poor,” she said.
She has served in a number of advisory capacities for the Diocese of Dallas as well, including its liturgical commission and the diocesan interracial healing task force — an initiative of Bishop Edward J. Burns.
“It’s wonderful to know and be assured that our bishop is conscious of the different ethnicities in the diocese and that there are some difficulties in our country at large that affect our Catholic community,” Hair said. “This task force seeks a way for us — as a diocese — to respond.”
The task force has been holding listening sessions at parishes throughout the diocese to seek input from its diverse community. So far, sessions have been held at Holy Cross Catholic Church in Oak Cliff, San Juan Diego Catholic Church in Dallas and St. Joseph Vietnamese Catholic Church in Grand Prairie
“We’re trying to get a sense of how people of different ethnicities feel about our faith and our church in the Diocese of Dallas,” Hair explained.
Hair is also the diocese’s representative for the Region X Black Catholic Ministry, where representatives from different dioceses, parishes and areas of Texas come together for Black Catholic community building, programs, fellowship and networking.
“It’s important to always be mindful to the fact that we are an international faith and we represent a lot of ethnicities,” Hair said. “We are all children of God and equally important. Black Catholic activities help bring all of that to mind. It helps us to celebrate the diversity in the Church.”
In the end, that’s what it all comes back to for Hair: serving God through service to her parish in McKinney.
“The community here is welcoming. It is vibrant. And I believe it embraces God and those less fortunate than themselves,” she said. “I’m blessed to be a part of it.”