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Ordained in 2011, Father Friel served for five years as Parochial Vicar at St. Anselm Parish in Northeast Philly. He is currently studying toward a doctorate in liturgical theology at The Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C.
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“In all this mediaeval religious poetry there is much that we could not use now. Many of the hymns are quite bad, many are frigid compositions containing futile tricks, puns, misinterpreted quotations of Scripture, and twisted concepts, whose only point is their twist. But there is an amazing amount of beautiful poetry that we could still use. If we are to have vernacular hymns at all, why do we not have translations of the old ones?”
— Fr. Adrian Fortescue (d. 1923)

St. Cecilia Academy for Pastoral Musicians
published 22 November 2015 by Fr. David Friel

APPY FEAST DAY to all our musician readers! Although St. Cecilia’s feast is eclipsed liturgically this year by the Solemnity of Christ the King, there is nothing stopping us from celebrating her privately.

In honor of her feast, I would like to draw attention to a wonderful initiative that bears her name. Begun just over a year ago, the St. Cecilia Academy for Pastoral Musicians is a fantastic program offered by the Archdiocese of New York in order to educate, train, and form parish musicians.

The St. Cecilia Academy is largely the work of Fr. Matthew Ernest, Director of the Office of Liturgy for the Archdiocese of New York. Father Ernest is a Professor and Director of Liturgy at St. Joseph’s Seminary, Dunwoodie.

Credit is also due to Dr. Jennifer Donnelson, who serves as the Director of Sacred Music at Dunwoodie. She is also a board member of the Society for Catholic Liturgy & the CMAA and played an instrumental role in organizing Sacra Liturgia USA 2015 (summaries available here, here, here, and here).

Comprised of fully accredited, Masters level courses, the Academy operates through St. Joseph’s Seminary. Its purpose is to bring parish musicians to an understanding of liturgical principles while also forming them in the history and theology of sacred music. In this way, the program seeks to broaden the knowledge of already well trained musicians so that they can become well trained liturgical musicians.

In a post over at NLM, Dr. Donelson shares more insights about the program. She includes this quote from Fr. Ernest about how the Academy came to be:

In the New York area, some parishes are able to hire trained musicians as parish music directors. Other parishes rely on dedicated volunteers to provide music ministry. While these individuals are talented musicians, they often come to these positions, both salaried and unsalaried, with limited or no formation in the principles of liturgy and sacred music. For many years, there has not been a comprehensive formation program for pastoral musicians offered in the greater New York area. Numerous requests have been made by pastors of the archdiocese for a program wherein musicians can receive the education they need to effectively serve as pastoral musicians. With the support of Cardinal Dolan, the staff of the archdiocese’s Office of Liturgy and the faculty of St. Joseph’s Seminary began to discuss ways in which this need could be met in our area. The result of these discussions is the St. Cecilia Academy.

This initiative addresses real needs in the liturgical life of the Church. There is such a wealth in our faith, and the more people with whom these treasures can be shared, the better. It would be wonderful to see similar programs developed in many other dioceses.