Tuesday, June 16, 2009

St. Mary's, Kalamazoo, Michigan

I spent the weekend assisting with a workshop on liturgy at a parish that is making great progress in both the reform of the reform as well as developing the extraordinary form of the Roman Rite. Since my visit last year, the parish now has beautiful new altar rails used at every Mass and a Benedictine-style altar arrangement, as well as new vestments. A new director of music provides outstanding organ improvisations on Gregorian melodies during both forms of the Mass. Visitors come from abroad to observe the transition and work toward the future.

Another change I noticed since last year is in the musical competence of the singers. The parish choir was able to sing all the propers with one Gregorian setting and other chant settings in English. The schola for the EF sang all the propers very well, including the Gradual and Alleuia verses from the official books, which are the most challenging part of the repertoire. A Di Lasso Mass provided the ordinary parts, as sung by semi-professionals, providing a balanced blend between chant, polyphony, organ, and hymnody.

The EF Mass was the most well attended of the three for Corpus Christi, which is an impressive trend.

I'm getting better at conducting these workshops and the singers had improved since last year, and the combination dramatically increased the efficiency and effectiveness of our efforts here.

What is especially nice about this parish is that its life is not afflicted by the typical parish problem of tedium and boredom week to week. Instead, there is a vision at work here, one that drives change week to week and year after year. There is no question where it is headed, and getting there is limited only by time and financial resources and training. This sense of direction provides a special lift to the entire parish culture.

Special mention needs to be made of Frs. David Grondz and Robert Sirico who are leading up the effort, which has so far been met with great approval from the people. We might describe this parish as a model of what a truly progressive parish should be.

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