Thursday, July 19, 2012

Monsignor Richard Schuler: CMAA Hero

The Church Music Association of America owes no one more of a debt than Monsignor Richard Schuler, a musician, teacher and pastor from the Twin Cities in Minnesota.  His name was singled out at the Requiem Mass for the deceased members of CMAA  on Wednesday, June 27, in Salt Lake City.

Schuler was born into a German family in 1920 and trained musically from his early years, eventually learning to be a fine organist. He entered the seminary in St. Paul after two years at the College of St. Thomas in the same city. After ordination, his superiors recognized his value as a teacher of music and assigned him to Nazareth Hall, the minor seminary for the Archdiocese of Minneapolis/St. Paul. He taught there for three years, before spending a year at the Eastman School of Music where he got a Master’s degree. The following summer he spent in Europe and, in 1954, he was awarded a Fullbright scholarship to study in Rome.

The next year he began teaching at the College of St. Thomas. Although he had hoped to be assigned to the major seminary, Father Schuler taught religion and music at the college for 14 years and obtained a Ph.D. in 1963. During this time he also directed two church choirs and was secretary for the Guild of Catholic Organists and Choirmasters. He also wrote articles for church music journals and was active in international Catholic music circles. He soon founded the Twin Cities Catholic Chorale, which would sing the Masses at the only parish he ever headed.  The group toured extensively nationally and internationally.

Shortly after the archdiocese got a new prelate, Bishop James P. Shannon, Father Schuler asked for and was given the pastorship of St. Agnes Church in St. Paul. A beautiful edifice that had not yet suffered from the stripping of churches so common in the next decades. St. Agnes would become the focus of weekly Latin (Novus Ordo) Masses with music by Mozart, Haydn and Beethoven and Schubert.  Father Schuler saw this assignment as a chance to implement the actual decrees of the Second Vatican Council on a parish level and, sometimes against great odds, he continued to do that until his death. At St. Agnes, there were appropriate vestments, processions and ceremony, as well as Gregorian propers and the works of great composers informing the Masses.

Father Schuler also oversaw the completion of the interior of the baroque church. In 1990 the bells were renewed and a fourth bell, named Richard after the pastor, was added. The Catholic school at the parish became famous for its orthodoxy and Father Schuler made certain the catechical materials used were sound. He was always insistent that Catholics must follow the Holy Father and implement the correct teachings of the councils.

His history with CMAA is legendary. He became the editor of its journal, Sacred Music, in 1973 and in 1976 was elected as its president, positions he held until the last few years before his death in 2007.

For his insistence on excellence in the liturgy and orthodoxy in doctrine, Monsignor Schuler has become an icon to those who continue his work. He lived to see several of the Sacred Music Colloquia and his spirit remains among those who strive to pass on the work he championed.

By Stephanie Swee 

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