UST A FEW short months ago, The Adoremus Bulletin lost its editor and leader, Helen Hull Hitchock. A little over a week ago, another woman associated with Adoremus, Dr. Lucy Carroll, died as a result of complications from back surgery. Over many years, Dr. Carroll contributed substantially to the reform of sacred music in the Catholic Church. (For details of her life, please see her obituary). Lucy was a friend and mentor to me, and I would like to share with you a little bit of her story.
Lucy was an accomplished choir director, clever cartoonist, and gifted writer. She was a beloved professor, published poet, and learned musicologist. She once worked as a high school music director, and eventually held a teaching position at Westminster Choir College in Princeton. She was also a woman of genuine personal holiness.
Lucy grew up in a Polish parish in the Bronx—Saint Adalbert’s—where her young faith was nurtured. It was at St. Adalbert’s that she first learned to appreciate the good, the true, and the beautiful. It was there that she had her first exposure to the language of the Church and the vast treasury of sacred music. She went on to earn music degrees from Temple University, Trenton State College, and Combs College of Music.
The most influential schooling she received, however, came from Manhattanville College of the Sacred Heart in Purchase, NY, which operated the Pius X School of Liturgical Music during summers. Dr. Carroll studied there during the tumultuous summers of 1963 & 1964. She once reminisced:
I often think of the days at Pius X and wonder what state our Catholic church music would be in today if we had all followed the letter rather than “the spirit” of Vatican II; if we had truly used the best and most elevated compositions rather than the bubble-gum variety; if we had emphasized choirs and organ as the Council Fathers intended.
Do yourself a favor, and read the complete article from which this quote comes. When I read that article for the first time, I learned about a blissful period in recent Church history about which I was previously unaware. It is an eye-opening read for those of us born well after the Council.
Schools like the Pius X School of Liturgical Music are lacking in today’s Church. The closest equivalent is probably the all-too-brief Sacred Music Colloquium (which opens tomorrow in Pittsburgh and continues all week). It is so encouraging to see the growth of youth choir schools like the one at the Cathedral of the Madeleine in Salt Lake City and the new Most Pure Heart of Mary Schola Cantorum, led by fellow blogger Lucas Tappan. Where will the graduates of these schools be able to go for advanced studies?
Most of my interactions with Dr. Carroll stem from her longtime work as the organist and music director at our Carmelite Monastery in Philadelphia. In addition to her normal weekend duties, she worked year-round to provide beautiful sacred music for the annual Novena in honor of Our Lady of Mt. Carmel and the Triduum celebrated in honor of St. Therese of Lisieux. Lucy even edited an excellent hymnal just for the use of the Carmel, entitled The Monastery Hymnal. She is deeply missed by the sisters, her Monastery Choir, and the wider family of Carmel.
Readers of The Adoremus Bulletin will recall Lucy’s frequent contributions to that publication. In addition to her many articles over the years (e.g., HERE, HERE, and HERE), she was also the creator of the “Churchmouse Squeaks” cartoons that would appear in every edition.
Dr. Carroll had diverse interests. On the one hand, she was passionate about pipe organs, while on the other hand she was an expert on the a cappella singing tradition of the Ephrata Cloister. She was a devotee of Carmelite spirituality, as well as an unabashed cat lover. She wrote a book (which I immensely enjoyed) entitled The Hymn Writers of Early Pennsylvania—a remarkably specific topic that capitalized upon her niche scholarship.
Lucy played an instrumental role in my coming to grips with the true nature of sacred music. Like so many other millennials, I grew up with a wildly distorted sense of what church music is and should be. I will forever be grateful to Lucy for patiently introducing me to the treasury I now love.
We offered Lucy’s funeral Mass on Friday in the original chapel of the National Shrine of Our Lady of Czestochowa in Doylestown, PA (my hometown). The congregation was heavily populated with members of her various choirs, all of whom sang at various points throughout the Mass. At the end, the In Paradisum was sung, and her casket was carried out of the chapel and taken to the burial site nearby.
I share Lucy’s story only in part because some readers will know her and be interested to hear the sad news of her death. The main reason I am sharing her story, though, is because she represents a generation of sacred musicians I deeply admire. She received an excellent education & formation in Catholic liturgical music, only to find that her skills were not wanted in the post-conciliar period. It took decades of perseverance before the sound education she had received could actually be put into the service of the Church who had formed her.
Dr. Lucy was a woman of great faith, totally immersed in the life of the Church. In many ways, the Church was her family. In every way, her life was totally committed to the work of Catholic sacred music. She is a brilliant example of what the Catholic faith can do when it takes root in a person.
Today, were it not Sunday, would be celebrated as the feast of St. Irenaeus, who famously wrote that “the glory of God is man fully alive.” It was Lucy’s faith that enabled her to be so “fully alive.” Her life was indelibly shaped by her experience of the Church; this should be the earnest desire of every Catholic.
As her name implies, Lucy was a light to others. Please join me in praying that she will be welcomed quickly into the resplendent light of the heavenly kingdom.