Father Bill Quinlivan tells his side of story in new book

Tue, Nov 18th 2014 02:00 pm

Buffalo's singing priest, Father William Quinlivan, has added another title to his resumé - book author. With the help of a self-publishing firm, he has released "Made to Praise Him: Finding My Song."

He describes the 234-page work as a combination "autobiography, vocation story, adventures in priestly ministry and where did that song come from." He writes about his music and how his work in the priesthood inspired his seven CDs.

"I think the vocation part of it is the thread that runs through the whole thing," he said. "I started looking back in my life and my childhood, where my love for music started to come from and making music. Then I realized all the different places where I have had the opportunity to be a part of music ministry. Some of the places I thought I would go with music before I realized that God was calling me to be a priest; I thought maybe I'd be a singer and be in the entertainment world."

Before becoming a priest at age 34, Father Quinlivan held a number of jobs that prepared him for the priesthood, although he didn't know it then. Some would call his a late vocation, but he feels he received his calling at just the right time.

He took a job as a portrait photographer to make car payments. There he learned how to deal with total strangers who would come in and expect something from him.

"That really happens a lot in priesthood," he said. His experience dealing with angry people on the phone while working for IRS taxpayers service, taught him how to help people who were emotionally distraught. All those 9-5s also helped lead him to his true vocation.

"I always had the feeling that there was something else, that I didn't really fit where I was. I could do it. I didn't get fired. My job evaluations were pretty good. Inside of me I was saying, 'This isn't it.'"

That's where the book's subtitle comes from.  The song is the joy of the vocation. Father Quinlivan enjoys the Julie Andrews musicals of the 1960s, like "The Sound of Music" where people burst into song because of the joy they feel, and wanted to feel that from his work.

"To me, when you find your vocation, even if you can't carry a tune, it should make you want to sing for joy," he said.

The original title, "From Joan to Jesus," referenced another one of his early jobs, writing jokes for Joan Rivers. After his sister Mary read the first draft, she pointed out that the Joan Rivers bit was only a small part of his life. So, he ended up naming the book after an unrecorded song.

"My hope is that in telling my vocation story, it will encourage people to keep looking if they haven't yet found what they believe God has in store for them in their life," he said.

The idea of writing his book sparked when his friend, Sister Briege McKenna, OSC, decided to hold off on writing a sequel to her "Miracles Do Happen." Wanting something to read, Father Quinlivan decided to write his own book.

"I never had a plan to write a book. All of a sudden the idea came; then more ideas came. So I followed it and it became whatever it is now," he said.

He began the book during Lent 2013, writing every morning after breakfast. The majority of the book was finished during the 40 days of Lent. He sent the book to a dozen national Catholic publishers, and received a dozen rejections. Some were polite. One wrote back that the manuscript was "delightful and insightful." It is the nicest rejection note Father Quinlivan ever received.

"It brought me back to my days when I had written a screenplay and some television scripts back in my early 20s and I was trying to get them produced," he said. "One of the things that I hesitated about writing the book was I didn't know if I'd be able to handle rejection letters again, because I got so many of them before."

Mary Zablocki, wife of Blessed Sacrament Parish deacon, Ed Zablocki, mentioned how she self-published a three-novel series through The Author's Mentor. So, Father Quinlivan took that approach in getting his work produced. He enjoyed the creative control the company gave him, even allowing him to design the front and back cover.

Father Quinlivan knows there is a risk in sharing his life story with the public.  He has received some backlash from his siblings who have different memories than brother Bill.

"I say, you'll have to write your own book, because that was my experience of it," he said, adding some memories are seen through rose-colored glasses; others are through cracked lenses.

"I really don't know what to expect," he said of his new venture. "There's something in that new territory you've never been in; there's an excitement about doing something new. I'm hoping that people who have my CDs, who hear that there's a book, might want to hear some of the stories behind them. Someone might pick it up if they see it is related to vocations and give it to their young son who might be called to be a priest, but thinks that because he's 24, he's too old. I hope that God has a plan for it. I don't have much of a plan myself."

Father Quinlivan will do a signing at the South Buffalo Irish Center, on Nov. 22, from 6 to 8 p.m.

"Made to Praise Him: Finding My Song" is available at Life Resources, St. Gregory the Great Catholic Store, Fatima Shrine Bookstore, OLV Gift Shop, Tara Gift Shoppe, as well as Amazon.

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