For three years now, we have enjoyed the person and the work of John Henderson, our music director. The choir members, the office staff, the school staff, the clergy, parishioners and visitors all speak warmly and well of him. He is a delight to have around. But (you knew this was coming) he is leaving us. John has decided to pursue a degree at the University of Texas, of all places, which effectively rules out commuting to Saint Bernadette. Heaven knows we tried to talk him out of it. He’ll be leaving for Austin in the middle of the month.
The music program here is remarkable and a distinction for our parish. It is the fruit of over a decade of work and development, not only by me and the musicians, but all of us as we grow in our understanding of and participation in music that is sacred, and liturgy that is authentic and worshipful. John has contributed greatly to that development, not least by his initiation of our Youth Choir. What we do and how we do it is talked about in other parishes, other dioceses, and other states.
Providentially, that communication made possible a connection that led to Chris Mueller accepting my invitation to be our new music director. He has long experience in chant and polyphony in parish worship, as well as choir leadership and sacred music planning in other contexts that give him a profile well above the parochial. Last month, he planned and led the music for the Convocation Of Catholic Leaders: The Joy Of The Gospel In America, a four-day mega-meeting in Orlando, organized by the USCCB for 3,500 participants from every diocese in the United States. He is a composer as well as a director, and rumor has it, plays a mean jazz piano.
Chris will be moving with his wife, Costanza, and their three kids to our neighborhood from Connecticut, which is an indication of how serious both he and I are about the music we raise up to God here at Saint Bernadette. He knows Father Markey from Connecticut, and has been in the working in the metropolitan area of New York for a long time. But really, deep down, he’s a southerner from Nashville, Tennessee. This cheers my heart, especially as I prepare to welcome yet another Long Islander and possible Mets fan, Fr. Jason Grisafi, into the rectory. So I am counting on Chris to be a cultural bulwark in that regard as well.
Next weekend, 12 – 13 August, will be John’s last at our organ bench. Chris will be around to “shadow” him through a weekend’s liturgies, then take the reins for the Holy Day on 15 August.
Please take the opportunity over the weekend or any time in coming days to express what I know to be your appreciation and affection for John. Even if you have to hunt him down and corner him, feel free to let him know how and why you will miss him, and wish him well as he sets out on his next challenge. Please prepare to welcome Chris and his family, and prepare yourselves to be drawn even more deeply into the divine worship of the Living God.