Church Music Association of America

Monsignor Richard J. Schuler (1920-2007): A Biographical Sketch

By Richard M. Hogan

Cum Angelis Canare: Essays on Sacred Music and Pastoral Liturgy in Honour of Richard. J. Schuler, ed. Robert A. Skeris, St. Paul, MN: Catholic Church Music Associates, 1990, pp. 7-16

Richard Joseph Schuler was born on December 30, 1920 in Minneapolis, Minnesota to Otto and Wilhelmine Schuler. He was the third child in the Schuler family. However, the first child, Helen, died shortly after birth and the second child, Donald, died at the age of seven in 1922. With these unfortunate deaths, Richard was raised as the oldest child. After Richard’s birth, there were two sisters born into the family, Catherine and Jeanne.

Richard’s parents were both of German descent. Otto Schuler’s parents had emigrated from the upper Lech valley in Tirol, Austria. Wilhelmine (“Minnie”) Hauk (her maiden name) was a descendant of a family who had emigrated to the United States from the area of Baden-Baden, Germany. De­spite this German ancestry, the f4mily lived in an Irish parish, the Ascension. All the Schuler children were baptized at the Ascension. Minnie was very active in the parish. Otto had his own business, a shoe store, known as Schuler Shoes. (In fact, Schuler Shoes has expanded considerably and is still in business.) Otto would often provide the sisters at Ascension con­vent with the shoes they needed.

As he grew older, his parents taught Richard the prayers of the Catholic faith and the Catholic traditions. He attended Mass with them and later, with his sisters. After six months in kindergarten in the public school, he began first grade at the Ascension. He made his first confession in the fourth grade at the age of nine. First Holy Communion followed in the fifth grade when he was ten. Richard graduated from the Ascension school in 1934 at the age of 13. He was also confirmed in that year. Clearly, the reception of the sacraments in these years together with the religious instruction he received from the sis­ten at the Ascension nourished and developed Richard’s faith. Further, the example and religious practices of his parents contributed in no small way to Richard’s own faith life.

During these grade school years, Monsignor Schuler began his music education. He took lessons in piano and flute—and played in the orchestra at the Ascension. As Monsignor explains today, none of this was out of the ordinary in a German family. Most children of German descent learned how to play at least one musical instrument. Otto and Minnie, at least in these early years, did not see any particularly special musical talent or ability in their son. Nevertheless, Richard’s ability and talent was nurtured and developed by the “ordinary” musical education that was part and parcel of growing up in a Catholic German family. Today, Monsignor Schuler notes that part of the tragedy of Catholic church music is that these “ordinary” things are not done. Lacking opportunities in the normal curriculum for music education, those children with musical talent and ability do not have the chance to discover their God-given talent and to develop it. By the time they realize they are interested in music, it is often too late because musical talent must be nurtured from a very young age. Taught by his own experience, Monsignor has constantly urged and tried to institute musical education in Catholic grade schools.

After graduating from the Ascension, Richard entered De La Salle High School, a school of the Christian Brothers. As with most of us, the beginning of high school introduced Richard to a much wider world. De La Salle had students from all parts of Minneapolis. In addition, the Christian Brothers were able to give Richard and their other students a deeper appreciation of the Catholic faith. The Brothers enriched the faith of their students by their religious instruction. It was in his sophomore year that Richard made a resolution to attend Mass every day. While at De La Salle, Richard also continued his musical studies. He took organ lessons at Mcphail, a school of music in Minneapolis. He put these lessons to use when he was hired to substitute at the Basilica of St. Mary in downtown Minneapolis. In 1938, at the age of 17, Richard graduated from De La Salle and entered the College of St. Thomas in St. Paul. At the College, he majored in English.

He was at St. Thomas for only two years because in 1940, he decided, on the advice of his pastor and other priests, to enter the St. Paul Seminary. Still, in 1943 he was able to gradu­ate with a BA. in English from the College of St. Thomas because he had been taking some summer courses at the University of Minnesota while he was at the College. In the first years at the seminary, he continued to take summer courses at the University. With these summer courses and some credit given by the College for courses at the seminary, he had the credits necessary for his degree.

In reflecting on seminary life, Monsignor admits that it was less than ideal. The courses were not of the same quality as those taught at the College. The living routine was highly regulated, probably too highly regulated. The students were not always treated with proper respect and dignity. In the same breath, however, Monsignor will also indicate that he and all his classmates regarded these difficulties as necessary steps towards the priesthood, a pearl of great price. Further, they felt themselves fortunate because many of their friends were fighting in World War II. In fact, Monsignor recalls the Archbishop coming to the seminary after World War II began. The Archbishop told the seminarians that they were doing as much for their country, perhaps more, through their studies as those who were fighting. The Archbishop saw the benefit to America from these future priests.

The war brought changes at the seminary. Classes were continued through the summer months. As a result, Monsignor Schuler’s seminary class was ordained earlier than originally anticipated. Monsignor was ordained a priest of the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis on August 18, 1945. This was a very joyous occasion, but there was a tinge of sadness. Catherine, Monsignor’s sister, had suddenly died in January, 1943.

After ordination, Fr. Schuler was assigned to the preparatory seminary, Nazareth Hall, where he taught music and history. He also continued as organist for Fr. Missia’s choir. (Fr. Missia was the seminary professor of music who had encour­aged Fr. Schuler, while he was still at the seminary, to put his musical talents to use as a priest-church musician.) Further, at Nazareth Hall, Monsignor began his continuing and intense interest in young people and especially in vocations. This in­terest in young people has been one of the chief characteristics of his priesthood. The students at Nazareth Hall benefited from this interest as did the students at St. Thomas and, eventually, the parishioners at St. Agnes. There are many priests who have been ordained from St. Agnes because of Monsignor’s interest in young people and vocations.

At Nazareth Hall, Monsignor had the responsibility of training the students in Gregorian chant for use at Mass and in the celebrations of the Liturgy of the Hours. He continued his own education by pursuing an MA degree in music theory at the Eastman School of Music in Rochester, New York. (Al­though his B.A. was in English, when he took the entrance exam at Eastman he was judged to have the equivalent of a B.A. in music.) Every summer between 1947 and 1950, Monsignor would leave Nazareth and go to Rochester, New York.

After earning his Masters in 1950, Monsignor had the next summer free. Europe was just recovering from the war and Americans were coming to visit again. Monsignor always has loved travel so when his aunt asked him to accompany her on a trip to Europe, he accepted. In the summer of 1951, Monsignor made his first trip to Europe, spending nine days in Rome. This trip opened a vast new area for travel and, more importantly, deepened his appreciation of Catholic culture. The two travelers even stopped in the valley of the Lech where they met some cousins, descendants of ancestors who had not emigrated to America.

Fr. Schuler stayed on at Nazareth until 1954 when he was awarded a Fulbright scholarship for a year’s study in Rome. With the permission of the Archbishop, Monsignor left for Rome in September 1954. Since his father had died in 1953, Minnie Schuler went with her son and spent the year in Rome with him. They traveled to Spain, Austria (the Lech valley), France, the Netherlands, Germany, and Britain.

Returning in 1955, the Archbishop asked Fr. Schuler to teach at the College of St. Thomas. As he reflects on this assignment now, Monsignor is very pleased that the Arch­bishop sent him to St. Thomas. At the time, it was a rather disappointing surprise because he had been promised a post at the seminary. But while he was away, his friend and former professor, Fr. Missia, had died and had been replaced by an­other. Monsignor held his teaching position at St. Thomas for fourteen years. At first, he taught religion, but soon he was teaching in the music department. He also began studying for his doctorate in music history at the University of Minnesota. He took classes at the University when his schedule permitted, graduating in 1963 with his Ph.D.

In addition to his teaching and academic responsibilities, Monsignor also directed two choirs. In 1955, shortly after re­turning from Europe, Monsignor founded the Twin Cities Catholic Chorale. This metropolitan-wide choir was originally composed of members from Fr. Missia’s former choir as well as other younger members who were attracted by the opportunity to sing Catholic church music. In the years that Monsi­gnor was at St. Thomas, the Chorale sang, at the invitation of pastors, in churches in the Archdiocese. It also often gave concerts. Monsignor also directed the Nativity parish choir in these years. Further, the Guild of Catholic Organists and Choirmasters, an archdiocesan-wide organization of parish choir directors and parish organists, absorbed some of Monsignor’s time. Officially, he was secretary of the Guild, but unofficially he planned the meetings and the programs. Each year in the spring, the Guild, with choirs from around the Archdiocese, sang a High Mass. The parish choirs had practiced the music for the Mass all year long. Monsignor directed. With both the Guild and the two choirs, Monsignor Schuler studied new music—often church music written in this century. Monsignor also would use instru­ments in the choir loft: violins, trumpets, horns—whatever the score called for. Of course, to many in church music, these innovations seemed unwarranted and even strange.

At the same time, Monsignor was active in national and international Catholic church music circles. He wrote articles for the American church music journals Caecilia and Catholic Choirmaster and also usually participated in the Boys Town workshops organized every summer, normally in August. He also attended the Fourth International Church Music Con­gress held in Cologne, Germany in 1961. After the beginning of the Council, in 1964 the St. Caecilia and the St. Gregory church music societies merged. Monsignor Schuler was present at the meeting at Boys Town which resulted in the union.

Monsignor Schuler also directed the music for the ordina­tion of Bishop James P. Shannon in the Cathedral of St. Paul in March, 1965. Bishop Shannon was named auxiliary bishop of the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis. The ordina­tion liturgy was done in English, one of the first episcopal ordinations to be done in the vernacular in the world. Monsi­gnor wrote a setting of the Hail Mary as part of this liturgy. He also arranged the music so that the liturgy could be done in the vernacular. Clearly, he was implementing his own principle that it is vital to follow the Church and to do what the Church asks.

In the same year as Bishop Shannon’s ordination, Monsi­gnor Johannes Overath from Cologne visited Fr. Schuler at the College. With some others, it was decided that the next international church music congress should be held on American soil. Fr. Schuler invited CIMS (the new interna­tional papal church music society established by Pope Paul VI in 1963) to schedule the next international congress in St. Paul, MN. However, it was decided to hold it in Milwaukee and Chicago. The date would be August, 1966. Fr. Schuler was named general chairman of the Congress and gathered a com­mittee from Chicago and Milwaukee to direct various aspects of the congress. The Fifth International Church Music Con­gress produced a series of papers that remain today significant statements on church music. As the first international gather­ing of Catholic church musicians after the Council, it helped to set the proper tone for the implementation of the conciliar decrees. However, as Monsignor has often said, there was an opposition to the texts of the Council.

There were those at the congress, he notes, who were opposed to the liturgical reform as given by the Council. Had the program of the church musicians as presented at the Fifth International Congress been followed, the state of Catholic church music would be far better. Unfortunately, the program of the congress remains a dead letter. As Monsignor Overath notes, “The Council has not failed; it has never been tried.”

From 1965 to 1966, Monsignor was a member of the Church Music Advisory Board. This was a committee of church musicians who were asked to advise a subcommittee of the National Confer­ence of Catholic Bishops on matters of church music. There were some very significant decisions made at these meetings. Unfortu­nately, these were somehow leaked to the press and publicized as though they were decisions of the bishops, when they were only decisions of an advisory board to a subcommittee. Monsi­gnor had argued with some decisions, especially one approv­ing the “hootenany Mass,” but the vote went against his posi­tion. His membership on the Advisory Board was terminated rather abruptly—probably because he had opposed some of the more radical decisions. He had stood, as he always had, for the Church and the conciliar decrees. One could say that the actions of the Music Advisory Board did much to leave the program of the church music congress a dead letter.

In the Sixties, Fr. Schuler was much in demand and trav­eled around the country giving workshops and conducting seminars. These invitations gradually decreased as it became known that he stood with the program of the Congress. Still, he decided to continue his work with his own choir, the Twin Cities Catholic Chorale. He could implement the conciliar decrees as he understood them through the cooperation of the members of this choir. This was particularly gratifying because in 1965, a year before the congress, he had given up the Nativity parish choir.

Still, the Chorale offered a limited stage on which to implement the conciliar decrees. Further, the College of St. Thomas was changing. For both these reasons, Monsignor asked for St. Agnes parish in St. Paul when the former pastor, Monsignor Rudolph Bandas, died. The Archbishop appointed Monsignor Schuler pastor of St. Agnes in September, 1969 He is now in his twenty-second year as pastor of St. Agnes.

The parish of St. Agnes has offered Monsignor the chance to implement the conciliar decrees on a parish level according to the mind of the Church and in light of principles he has followed throughout his life. As you would expect from a man who has devoted his rich musical talents to the service of the Church, there is a well-developed liturgical life at St. Agnes. At the Sunday High Mass, the Twin Cities Catholic Chorale to­gether with members of the Minnesota Orchestra sing the Masses of Mozart, Haydn, Beethoven, Schubert and other great composers. These Viennese settings of the ordinary of the Mass are sung together with the propers in Gregorian chant. The program of the Council as proposed at the Fifth International Congress can be seen at St. Agnes. But the lit­urgy is not enhanced solely by the music, there are solemn ceremonies with appropriate vestments.

There are processions—especially noteworthy are those on the feasts of Corpus Christi, St. Agnes, and Holy Thursday. Monsi­gnor combines the new with the old as the Council wished.

Monsignor’s other major focus in his priestly life has been his interest in young people. St. Agnes affords him ample opportunity to express this interest because of its grade and high schools. Of course, of primary concern to him is the teach­ing of the faith. For this reason, he has and continues to take an interest in the teaching of religion in both St. Agnes schools. He supports new efforts, but wants to insure that the students of St. Agnes schools receive the unbroken teaching of Christ.

He explained his attitude towards catechetics in a remark­able homily he preached in the early seventies. He indicated that there had to be a second St. Thomas, a new doctor of the Church, who would find a new language and a new way to express the age-old teachings. Monsignor said that the ways the thirteenth century had for expressing the faith were no longer adequate to our century. This he said was what the Council was all about: finding a new language to be a vehicle for the faith. When asked who he thought was doing this, he was at a loss. Without knowing it at the time, Monsignor had predicted precisely the program of Pope John Paul II, years before this man was elected to the papal office! The present Holy Father has a new way of expressing the faith and this new language is being adopted at St. Agnes.

Monsignor’s interest in young people has born fruit in the number of vocations to the priesthood from St. Agnes. There have been twelve priestly ordinations from St. Agnes since Monsignor has been pastor. He attributes this to the sacred liturgy as it is celebrated at St. Agnes, but one must give some credit to Monsignor’s own hospitality and personal warmth.

While at St. Agnes, Monsignor has directed the complete re­decoration of the church’s interior. St. Agnes was built as a ba­roque church, but the interior was never completed. As part of the 100th anniversary of the parish, Monsignor launched a fund-drive to pay for the interior decoration. Previously, he had re­done the exterior stone work. In 1990, the bells were renewed and a fourth, named Richard after the present pastor, was added.

While at St. Agnes, Monsignor Schuler has continued his interest in the national and international Catholic church mu­sic scene. For ten years, from 1969 to 1979, he was vice-presi­dent of the papal church music society (CIMS). In that capac­ity, he attended the Sixth International Church Music Con­gress in Salzburg in 1974. He also brought his own choir, the Chorale, and made arrangements for at least one other Ameri­can choir to be present in Salzburg. In 1975, he became editor of the journal of the Church Music Association of America, Sacred Music, and in 1976, he was elected president of the society. He continues to hold both positions today.

Further, it was during his second year at St. Agnes that he was named an honorary prelate (Monsignor) of the Church. The honor was announced at Monsignor’s twenty-fifth ordina­tion anniversary in 1970.

Of course, not everything has been easy in the postconciliar Church. In the early years at St. Agnes, Monsi­gnor had to maintain his right as pastor to determine the catechetical materials to be used in the school. Further, not all the priestly vocations from St. Agnes have been warmly re­ceived by the archdiocesan vocation office and the seminary. In all these matters, Monsignor has always asked that everyone in the Church follow the Holy Father and implement the teachings of the Council. There will always be difficulties, but if there can be agreement on the fundamentals, the other things will take care of themselves.

Thankfully this biography is not finished because we hope and pray that God will give Monsignor Schuler many, many more years. Ad Multos Annos!

___

Richard J. Schuler: A Select Bibliography
Harold D. Hughesdon

“Music in the Preparatory Seminary”, Catholic Music Education Bulletin (October, 1952).

“The Motu Proprio and Progress in Church Music”, The Catho­lic Choirmaster (Fall, 1953).

“Renaissance Polyphony”, The Catholic Choirmaster (Fall, 1955).

“The Encyclical ‘Musicae Sacrae Disciplina”’, Caecilia (May, 1957).

“Music Collections of the Vatican Library”, Caecilia (February, 1957).

“Roman Choirs”, Caecilia (December, 1957).

“The ‘Modem Question’ in Church Music”, The Catholic Choir­master (Spring, 1958).

“The Roman Chant”, Caecilia (Winter, 1959).

“Meaning in Modern Music”, Musart (January, 1961).

“The Life of Giovanni Maria Nanino”, Caecilia (Summer,
1963).

“The Cappella Sistina”, Caecilia (winter, 1963).

“Joannes de Tinctoris, 15th Century Theorist and Composer”, Caecilia (Winter, 1965).

“Our National and International Meetings, 1966”, Sacred Music (Autumn, 1965).

“Joseph Gelineau. Voices and Instruments in Christian Worship” A review. Response. (No. 2, 1965).

“The Fifth International Congress and Church Music in the United States”, Musicae Sacrae Ministerium Special Edi­tion, 1965.

“More about our National and International Meetings”, Sacred Music (Spring, 1966).

“The Sacred and the Secular in Music”, Sacred Music (Autumn, 1966).

“Education in Music, the Answer to our Liturgical Problems”, Sacred Music (Summer, 1966).

“Some Comments on the New Instruction”, Sacred Music (Sum­mer, 1967).

“Estados Unidos”, in Presente y Futuro de Ia Musica Sagrada, Conferencias Pronunciadas en la Radio Vaticana (Madrid:Editorial Razon yFe, 1966).

“Implementation or Deterioration?” The Wanderer (November 30, 1967).

“The Congregation: Its Possibilities and its Limitations”, Sacred Music (Winter, 1967).

“Christmas in Tirol”, The Wanderer (December 21, 1967).

“Music and the ‘Word and Worship’ Series”, The Wanderer (February 29, 1968);

“The Congregation”, Musart (February-March, 1968).

“By Whose Authority?” The Wanderer (April 4, 1968).

“Christmas Days in Rome”, The Wanderer (December 19, 1968).

“Who Killed Sacred Music”, Triumph (March, 1969).

“Teaching Music History in College”, Musart (February, 1969).

“An Answer to the Problems of Sacred Music Today”, The Wanderer (November, 20, 1969).

“Christmas at St. Agnes”, The Wanderer (December 18, 1969).

“Humanism and the Sacred”, Sacred Music (Winter, 1969).

G. M. Nanino: Fourteen Liturgical Works. Volume V in Recent Researches in the Music of the Renaissance Madison: A-R Edi­tions, 1969.

Sacred Music and Liturgy after Vatican II. Rome: Consociatio Internationalis Musicae Sacrae, 1969 (Edited English edi­tion).

“The ‘Ordo Missae’ and Sacred Music, The Wanderer (April 30, 1970).

“The Virtue of Religion”, Musicae Sacrae Ministerium (Autumnus, 1970).

“Man, Art, God”, Triumph (October, 1970).

“CIMS, Recent Activities”, Sacred Music (Winter, 1970). “Pope Paul on Sacred Music”, Sacred Music (Summer, 1971).

“Law or Opinion?”, Sacred Music (Fall, 1973). “Preparation of the Diocesan Clergy in Church Music”, Sacred Music (Fall, 1974).

“Corpus Christi, 1975”, Sacred Music (Summer, 1975). “Native Music for the Missions”, Sacred Music (Winter, 1975). “What We Profess”, Sacred Music (Fall, 1975).

“How Can You Have a Latin Mass?”, The Saturday Review (Spring, 1976).

“The State of Music in American Churches: Additional View­points”, Church Music (1976).

“Wedding Music”, The Saturday Review (Summer, 1976).

“Church Music Association”, Sacred Music (Spring, 1977).

“The 1967 Instruction Ten Years Later”, Sacred Music (Fall, 1977).

“The Wanderer Stands at the Center”, The Wanderer (October 6, 1977).

“Holy Mary, Mother of God”, The Wanderer (October 20, 1977).

“Modernism: A Continuing Assault on the Papacy”, The Wan­derer (June 30, 1977).

“Easter is a Feast of Triumph”, The Wanderer (April 21, 1977).

“Let our Catholic Culture Rise up from the Thorns”, The Wan­derer (August 3, 1978).

“Sacred Music and Contemplation”, Sacred Music (Spring, 1979).

“Book Bargain”, Sacred Music (Summer, 1979).

“The Place of Prayer”, Sacred Music (Fall, 1979).

“Vatican Congregation Critical of BCL Paper on Eucharistic Bread”, The Wanderer (1979).

“The Popes and Marian Piety”, The Wanderer (July 8, 1979).

“Evangelization Must Stress the Teachings of Christ and His Church”, The Wanderer (September 13, 1979).

“What’s Behind the Crisis in Priestly Vocations?” The Wanderer (December, 14, 1979).

“Gregorian Chant and Latin in the Seminaries”, Sacred Music (Spring, 1980).

“Easter: A Time for Life”, Immaculata (April, 1980).

“The Sacred”, Sacred Music (Fall, 1980).

“Why the Latin Mass Has all but Died in America”, The Wan­derer (February 5, 1981).

“The Spiritual Blindness of the Neo-modernists”, The Wanderer (March 12, 1981).

“A Priest Must Show us Christ”, The Wanderer (June 11, 1981).

“The Funeral Liturgy”, Sacred Music (Winter, 1981).

‘Success’ of the Liturgical Reform”, Sacred Music (Winter, 1981).

“New Approach Needed in Training for the Priesthood”, The Wanderer (May 20, 1982).

“A Chronicle of the Reform” (7 parts), Sacred Music (Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter, 1982, and Spring, Summer, Fall, 1983).

“The Remedy for the Restoration of Sound Catechetics”, The Wanderer (March 17, 1983).

“The Tridentine Mass”, Sacred Music (Winter, 1984).

“A Pastor’s Reflections on ‘Reconciliatio et Poenitentia’”, The Wanderer Supplement (January 17, 1985). “What Makes Music Sacred?”, Sacred Music (Spring, 1985). “Toward a Sacred Liturgy”, Lay Witness (April, 1985). “A Good Beginning”, The Wanderer (October 30, 1986 “Papal Honors for American Musicians”, Sacred Music (Sum­mer, 1987).

“Saint Agnes, Sunday Morning”, Sacred Music (Fall, 1987).

“Christmas Angels”, The Wanderer (December 24, 1987).

“Gregorian Chant in Today’s Parish”, Sacred Music (Summer, 1988).

“A Thousand Years of Catholicism in Ukraine”, The Wanderer (1988).

“The Crib at Bethlehem”, The Wanderer (December, 1989).

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