Implementing the Vatican II Reform: The Cathedral Chant School

Article excerpt

There should be choirs, or Capellae, or scholae cantorum, especially in cathedrals and other major churches, in seminaries and religious houses of studies, and they should be carefully encouraged. (Musicam Sacram, [paragraph] 19(a))

A sea of priests in flowing white chasubles circled around the marble sanctuary of the Cathedral of Saint Mary of the Immaculate Conception, each taking a moment to shake the anointed hands of the newly ordained ministers of God. An ancient Gregorian chant wafted from the third-story balcony, which was packed tightly with the bodies of three choirs and a brass quintet. Surprisingly, this description befits a ceremony which is not yet relegated to the musty records of posterity. Rather, it describes the priestly ordinations of the diocese of Peoria, Illinois on May 23, 2009. That morning, two men were ordained to the eternal priesthood of Jesus Christ; and that morning the Cathedral Chant School sang for the first time before parishioners from across the diocese and beyond.

The Cathedral Chant School, on the cutting edge of the liturgical reform, was founded in October 2008 due directly to the desires of our Bishop Daniel Jenky. Bishop Jenky envisions the Cathedral to be a mother in many respects, and in accord with the Vatican II document Musicam Sacram to be an exemplar of good sacred music. He requested that the Diocese of Peoria be taught about our sacred heritage of Gregorian chant. "We Catholics are suffering from liturgical amnesia," he remarked informally to the schola. "It is as though we have whitewashed the paintings of the Sistine Chapel. You are doing a very important work."

The Cathedral Chant School provides beautiful chant for the Cathedral's Latin Saturday Vigil Masses and other special occasions. It has a secondary purpose as well. In teaching musicians throughout the diocese how to sing Gregorian chant, it prepares those musicians to take Gregorian chant back to their own parishes and to continue the liturgical reform there. The school is currently provided to its participants at only the cost of materials, and convenes at times which strive not to conflict with the times of other parish music program schedules. The base of participants has remained consistent at around ten, and they come from all different musical backgrounds.

Since its inception, the school has already distinguished itself in hosting Master Class workshops by Dr. …