By Tim Harfmann
CONEY ISLAND — Albert and Elaine Tontoh spend their weekends serving the church in song. Albert plays the keyboard and Elaine leads the choir at St. Catherine of Genoa Church in East Flatbush.
Because of their service, they are two of this year’s Shining Stars, an honor presented annually by the Diocese of Brooklyn’s Catholic Migration Services to Catholics who are active in ministries involving their ethnic backgrounds.
“It’s an honor not only to us, but it’s basically giving glory to God for even acknowledging us through His people in His church,” Elaine said.
“We cannot worship without music, especially in our African culture,” said Father Anselmus Mawusi, coordinator of the diocese’s Ghanaian apostolate. “We worship, we dance, and we pray; and everything that we do in our culture is all about music,” he added.
Albert and Elaine met while they were both leading a children’s choir in Ghana. They have lived in the United States for eight years.
Albert works in the pharmaceutical industry, and Elaine is a student. She’s pursuing a doctorate degree in economics, while teaching part time at Fordham University.
Though they have busy schedules, the couple has made the church a focus of their lives. “[The church] has an influence on what we do every day, I do every day: mingling with people, having to work, having to go to school,” Albert said. “So the church becomes a central point.”
Albert and Elaine also help the choir at the neighboring St. Francis of Assisi – St. Blaise Church, Crown Heights. In addition, Elaine is head of youth ministry at St. Therese of Lisieux Church, East Flatbush.
The couple wants to inspire others with their awards. “Be like a role model, a pillar of motivation to other people, especially to the young, to also contribute in the church,” Albert said. “It says ‘Shining Star,’ so once it’s awarded, the expectation is that you shine even brighter,” Elaine added.
Albert, Elaine and other recipients received their Shining Stars at a dinner ceremony at Gargiulo’s Restaurant in Coney Island, Oct. 4. There are so many honorees this year that a second dinner was scheduled for Oct. 11.