At Franciscan University, a long-awaited music ministry minor is nearly available, which will provide the necessary skills for students to use music in both liturgical and non-liturgical settings.
Bob Rice, who holds a doctorate in theology from Liverpool Hope University and serves as the program director, said that the central course, Introduction to Music Ministry, will be offered for the first time in Spring 2019.
This new minor, a collaboration between the theology and fine arts departments, includes 18 credits of courses in ear training, music theory, catechetics, liturgy and, as described by Rice, the “practical nuts and bolts” of music ministry.
While many students are already involved in music ministry, Rice explained that they often lack skills either in music or catechesis, which are both needed to be an effective music minister. Over the past several years, Rice said that many at Franciscan University sensed the need for an academic program to teach not only the musical skills, but also the “pastoral application of music.”
This minor is different from the sacred music minor in that it teaches not only musical skills, but also how to apply these to a pastoral context, including in non-liturgical settings. Rice said the minor will especially complement majors in sacred music, theology or catechetics, teaching catechetics majors to be better musicians and music majors to be better ministers.
Rice said many students have expressed interest in the minor, and he roughly estimated 15 to 20 students to join the program. Anyone interested can find the information sheet outside of his office (Egan 277).
The program requires eight credits of music courses: Ear Training I and II (one credit each) and Theory and Analysis I and II (three credits each). Through these courses, students can develop the basic skills necessary to understand and perform music.
Music ministry minors are also required to take three courses in theology and catechetics to teach them how to be better ministers. Introduction to Catechetics, as Rice described, focses on Pope John Paul II’s “Christifideles Laici,” on the role of lay people in the church, as well as on the importance of prayer. He explained that this is because, as lay music ministers, “we’re not just playing music, we’re leading prayer through music.”
Just as importantly, students will also take a course on liturgy to understand the mass on a more profound level and be more deeply involved as music ministers.
The central course of the minor, Introduction to Music Ministry, will teach students how to implement what they have learned in the other courses to music ministry. It will provide them with practical skills, such as choosing the appropriate music for liturgical and non-liturgical settings, arranging music, coordinating with other musicians, and communicating with the rest of the laity through music.
Rice emphasized that the course will also stretch students’ perspectives by exposing them to the various types of sacred music, covering “the whole richness and wealth of the Church’s musical tradition,” encouraging an appreciation for both traditional and contemporary styles of music.
Finally, music ministry minors will participate in a one credit Music Ministry Practicum, where they will get first-hand experience playing in the liturgy, Festivals of Praise and other events and services on campus.
Regarding how this program was important for a Catholic education, Rice responded by referencing Bishop Robert Barron’s recent dialogues on the importance of beauty in evangelization. Rice said, “Art is a great way of drawing people closer to God, inspiring them and leading them to Christ, and I really believe, as we’re looking at sadly, a generation that seems to be walking away from the faith, that music is a very powerful evangelistic tool that can speak to the heart and the mind at the same time and can lead people into deeper experiences of worship.”
This ministry, Rice said, is a wonderful way to live out the mission of Franciscan University as “joyful disciples.”