Mary Callaghan Lynch is artistic director of the Motor City Lyric Opera, having spent more than 28 years as a performer herself. A graduate of Marygrove College and the University of Michigan, Mary is the daughter of Mary O’Brien Callaghan, from whom she inherited her fine soprano, and church organist John Callaghan, who taught at Marygrove and was music director at St. Bernard’s & St. Catherine’s of Detroit and Holy Name Parish in Birmingham. Mary grew up in an Irish Catholic family that observed the liturgical calendar and marked its occasions with song, drama and holy music. Her parents believed in St. Augustine’s dictum: Qui cantat, bis orat — “Who sings, prays twice” — and with 18 children, there was never a shortage of song or prayer in the Callaghan home.
What was the last book you read?
The Extraordinary Life of Sam Hell by Robert Dugoni.
I loved this book. An easy read: a sensitive coming-of-age story of a Catholic boy who is raised by beautiful parents of faith and his turbulent journey of faith.
What is your biggest fear?
Something irrevocable happening to my children or grandchildren.
What is your biggest pet peeve?
Bullying. I find it inexcusable and have seen its debilitating effects.
Whom do you admire?
My parents. The fact that they raised their 18 children with a fierce indoctrination of faith, hope and love and lived their Catholic faith — to the fullest — is a model we all can aspire to.
If you had unlimited resources, what would you do?
I would open as many mental health facilities that would be free to those in need. The criminal justice system is full of mentally ill souls who shouldn’t be in a punitive environment.
What is your favorite feast day?
St. Patrick’s Day. It has always been a joyous day for me. From growing up and my mother putting a green ribbon in my hair — something to adorn that Holy Name uniform — to singing on the Paula W. Smith St. Paddy’s broadcast, to going to Most Holy Trinity and singing there
What is your best quality?
What is the biggest risk you’ve taken?
Starting the Motor City Lyric Opera, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit that brings the transformative art form of opera (with a message) to inner-city kids, free of charge. We are currently bringing an anti-bullying opera to 10,000 students annually via our Opera on Wheels outreach program.
What virtue do you most admire in others?
What gives you the most happiness?
Aside from being with my family, performing brings me great joy.
What’s the first thing you do when you wake up in the morning?
Pray. Meditate. My favorite prayer is the eighth verse of St. Patrick’s breastplate.
“Christ with me, Christ before me,
Christ behind me, Christ within me,
Christ beneath me, Christ above me,
Christ at my right, Christ at my left,
Christ in breadth, Christ in length, Christ in height.”
What talent or skill do you wish you had?
Painting. Oh, to be a portrait artist!
What are you most proud of?
Aside from my two magnificent children, I am so proud that I was Aretha Franklin’s operatic voice coach for almost 20 years.
What is your vision of heaven?
That the mystical body of Christ would be complete with peace. No war. No strife. No suffering.
What was your first job?
A behind-the-counter fountain waitress at Kresge’s.
What is your most cherished possession?
My mother’s engagement and wedding rings. Being one of eight daughters, I was completely stunned and honored when she gave them to me a few months before she died.
What is your most embarrassing moment?
When I was in Do Black Patent Leather Shoes Really Reflect Up?, I had a quick change offstage and came back onstage with one knee sock on and one off, and my fellow actor just kept staring at the leg without the sock while we did an entire scene.
What is your favorite hobby or pastime?
Going to the theatre, opera, etc. Attending any arts performance.
What do you value the most in your friends?
Who is your favorite author?
The inimitable Thomas Lynch, who also happens to be my brother-in-law!
Who is your fictional hero?
Anne of Green Gables. Love her fierce spirit, her unwavering ability to faithfully do what she believes in no matter the consequences.
Which saint do you turn to for intercession the most?
Our Blessed Mother. When stressed, I immediately start saying a “Hail Mary”!
How do you define a “Missionary Disciple”?
A disciple of Christ. One who is willing to walk the walk, not just talk the talk.
What keeps you up at night?
How do you want to be remembered when you die?
As a loving, intuitive person who did her best to do the will of God.
What is your life motto or mantra?
“Let go, let God.”
Certainly not easy, but I do try.
What makes you laugh?
My children and grandchildren. They each can be absolutely hysterical.
How do you define success?
To be true to yourself, to live and love mindfully and to nurture a strong relationship with our Lord.