HE FIGHTIN’ IRISH are having a great season. They have an 8-1 record through this weekend and currently sit in first place among FBS Independent Schools.
But another season of football success is not the only good news on campus.
The Basilica of the Sacred Heart at the University of Notre Dame has been the hub of two recent and exciting bits of liturgical news. The first story is about the construction of a brand new pipe organ custom built to match the magnificent space. The second story is about the arrival of Byzantine liturgy on campus.
HE ORGAN PROJECT began back in 2012 and will be completed in the next year. The new organ, which is set to be premiered in December 2016, has four manuals and 70 stops (totaling 5,164 pipes). It is being built by Paul Fritts & Company, an outfit founded in 1979 and based in Tacoma, Wash. In addition to numerous churches of various denominations, Fritts and his team of builders have previously produced instruments for such venerable institutions as the Eastman School of Music, Princeton Theological Seminary, and the Oberlin Conservatory.
Fritts specializes in building organs that are meant primarily to lead congregational singing. For this reason, they model their building technique after the tradition of organbuilding in northern Germany and the Netherlands. Historical research of these organs reveals how they were built and how they were designed to support the music of composers like Bach, Buxtehude, and Sweelinck. This focus is reflected in the stop list of the new Basilica organ. A few sets of pipes representative of other traditions have been selectively added in order to help support the needs of organ performance.
One stipulation made by the organ company was that the carpet in the Basilica would need to be removed, in order to improve the acoustics of the space. That $500,000 project was completed in 2014.
The new instrument is replacing a Holtkamp organ that was installed in 1978, during the era of Father Hesburgh. With only 40 stops (totaling under 3,000 pipes), this organ was judged undersized for the voluminous Basilica, particularly when it is filled with worshippers. The Holtkamp organ will be reinstalled at St. Pius X Church, being newly built about five miles away in Granger, IN. Fritts Opus 40 will be the fifth pipe organ used in this sanctuary since it was built in the 1850’s. It is being donated by a married couple who are parents and grandparents of Notre Dame alumni. 1
ATHER KHALED ANATOLIOS is new to the theology faculty of the University of Notre Dame this semester. A newly-ordained priest of the Melkite Greek Catholic Church, he offered to make the Divine Liturgy available to the student body. The University has taken him up on the offer.
The Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom, used by the Melkite Rite, will be offered one Sunday a month for now in the Basilica of the Sacred Heart. As Father Anatolios settles in, it may be offered more frequently.
Byzantine liturgy is not commonly found on college campuses. There is a Byzantine Catholic Mission at Penn State, and a Ukrainian Catholic shrine sits close to the campus of the Catholic University of America. The monthly Divine Liturgy at Notre Dame, however, seems to be the first regularly scheduled on campus Eastern liturgy.
There have been calls, from time to time, for more “diversity” among theology faculties. Such requests, of course, have not always been well motivated. Here, however, we have a case of true, authentic, catholic diversity. Here’s hoping that many students, faculty, and visitors will participate in and learn from this new initiative. 2
HE BUILDING of this organ and the offering of Divine Liturgy constitute encouraging news for the world of Catholic higher education. While there are many troubling things happening on our Catholic college campuses, there are also many wonderful things. The positive things deserve more of our attention, praise, and gratitude than they sometimes receive.
Named a Basilica by St. John Paul II in 1992, Sacred Heart has long fit the definition of a place of historical importance, architectural worth, and popular pilgrimage. One of 82 Basilicas in the United States, this campus church now has two more reasons to serve as a place of pilgrimage.
NOTES FROM THIS ARTICLE:
1 Many of the details about the organ project derive from an article by John Nagy, published in the Autumn 2016 edition of Notre Dame Magazine.
2 Information about the introduction of the Eastern liturgy at Notre Dame comes from a piece written by John Burger over at Aleteia.