Need to commiserate
  • ghmus7
    Posts: 1,450
    Hello all ye musikers.

    I hope you will allow me a little ranting.
    I have been doing music ministry for 45 years next year. I really would
    like to quit and retire but I have two teenagers. They eat...a lot.

    The church I am at is gorgeous and will be delcared a basilica at some point.
    I have a fine organ, though in need of repair. I have some dedicated people in the choirs.

    The problem is....people in this small city just don't get it. There is no support
    for the music ministry. They do not come to the many special liturgies and concerts
    we provide. The staff never come to music events. The three priests do not attend
    anything other than masses and retreats etc.

    I have been here three years. When I arrived I had worked out many details about
    my position with the then pastor, so I was quite happy to move four states away...though my two
    teenagers are still living where I left.

    Three years into the position...there was a new pastor.
    Without informing me, he took the
    rehearsal space were using for choir rehearsal and made it into offices.
    I came to church one day to find walls going up. When I approached the pastor he promised to stop the construction.
    A week later the walls were up again and it is now a conference room. All the choirs now rehearse in the church loft and our elderly
    members tromp up and down the stairs. They will soon quit...no one cares.
    In the mess of construction, we lost many items, including a blutooth speaker which the choir bought with
    their OWN MONEY. Nobody cares.

    As well, the pastor called funeral homes and told them not to pay me for funerals, as he believed that it was part of my job to play them for free. At one funeral the family left a check for me. The pastor confiscated the check and I never got it...

    He finally relented after three months of arguing to allow me to be paid for funerals. I had to call the funeral homes to sort out the mess.

    He also insisted I had to play for all the school masses and help coach the school choir...because EVERY YEAR.the school hires a new
    non Catholic music teacher. The prinicipal ignores my recommendations. When I asked I i was to be paid for these extra masses, I was told this
    was "innappropriate".

    Recently for All Saints, we sang the Schubert Mass in G with orchestra. I'm sure you know what it was to pull that off with an all
    volunteer choir. Some people loved it but MANY complained to the pastor. I guess they wanted a quick mass and leave, although the Schubert was advertised for months...but no one pays attention...

    I play for 5 Masses every weekend and direct three choirs and play for school Masses and...you all know it is a huge parish.

    I instituted an intern program with the local university. I sought out donors to provide a salary
    for two students who sing in the choir and play for extra Masses... Note it does not cost the church a penny...but the accountant
    complained about it and it literally took three months to get them paid. She said " why do you need this? Aren't you paying people
    to do your job? BTW she has never worked for a church...

    It's not that the pastor is bad...he is well liked...but people here just don't get a vision for music and are couldn't care less.... Most just don't care.
    No one offers to help with all the extra stuff with special liturgies, concerts etc. I don't ask anymore. If I can get
    the choir to show up for rehearsal and one mass, I consider that a huge accomplishment. No $ for section singers even though every other church downtown has multiple paid leaders.

    We have mothly organ concerts..never more than 20 people come. The concerts have been going
    on for 18 years!

    I realised that my predecessor supported most of the music with her own $$$. She never had children.
    It is not that the parish has no money...they are spending $700k on a parking lot.

    Is this what the Catholic church is? Is there NEVER going to be any change? Here I am at the end of a very long career and by now i honestly did not expect to be fighting the VERY SAME BATTLES I was when I started at my first position


    I am just very very tired.

    Very tired.

    Thank you for listening.
    You may now return to your regularly sceduled program.


  • tomjaw
    Posts: 2,677
    Not every church is like this but sadly far too many people in the church see the music as a not very important extra. The low Mass with Hymns that proliferated in the wake of the liturgical reforms deforms, has not helped.

    It will not always be like this change is coming. The smaller more Faithful Church prophesied by Benedict will see to it.
  • Is this what the Catholic church is?


    Unfortunately, yes to a large extent. Especially in Novus Ordo world. I'm sorry for your troubles; it all sounds immensely frustrating. Having experienced it myself, I can say there's little which is more disheartening than giving the people something beautiful and them preferring Haugen and Haas (or silence).
  • francis
    Posts: 10,639
    We know the state of affairs and totally agree. God put us here for these times as difficult as it may seem. Keep the faith. Perhaps you can attend Mass and confession at a different church that will sustain you and replenish your spiritual needs. I recommend an FSSP if one is near. Pray the rosary daily. You (and all who are in the role of sacred music) are and have been in my prayers.
  • As a tangent, is the Old Mass still offered at your parish, or has that gone the way of the dodo? I recall that it used to be part of the Mass schedule at one point, I think?
    Thanked by 1tomjaw
  • ghmus7
    Posts: 1,450
    We are not allowed after TC to celebrate ther old rite. In place of that we do the NO in Latin Ad Orienum.
  • All I can say is I’m so very sorry. I’ve explained to our parishioners multiple times the last few years that the only reason I was able to do everything that I did was because I had the unequivocal support of the pastor. It’s so tough when the pastor is apathetic to music (or worse). The funeral payment thing is weird… on the one hand, I understand where he is coming from, but on the other hand, that is very standard practice, and many churches even count on those stipends as an (advertised) pad to the salary.

    I know of one “destination parish” where the incumbent is not allowed a stipend even for weddings! (Well, weddings of parishioners, at any rate.) there are over 50 weddings per year—sometimes three per weekend—and he doesn’t get paid for more than half of them. It’s absolutely crazy. And a lot of work, too!

    As for the intern situation, that is also wild. A.) why does she care? B.) you sourced the funds and they belong to your program/interns, so she has no right to hold them hostage. It really sounds like there’s some serious wont of Christian charity around the place (how sad, and how common).

    I will send some Aves your way.
  • jcr
    Posts: 131
    Unfortunately, the situation in the "music department" at the church is more pathetic than what I had feared was coming. I had my first paid church position in 1962. This was a Protestant church and the choir was a paid mixed quartet that met before the service on Sunday mornings. We had a very good organist and there were other musicians who would come in for occasional reasons. The pastor preached about how "God is the evolutionary force bringing about God's kingdom here on earth" to a congregation of about seven or eight congregants, two of whom always slept through the sermon.

    Now, this inauspiscious beginning to a career that nearly always included work in and for some kind of nominally Christian church led to often better and always more complicated situations.

    Fast forward some 55 years. After taking time out to care for a Mother in law for five years, we were asked if we would take a job in a relative's church. This, a Protestant Church where the pastor was known to us as a fellow as nearly orthodox as a Presbyterian can be these days. We found a situation where, although the singers were generally ok, there was no tolerance on their part for any kind of discipline. No rehearsal guideline would be accepted and mutiny was threatened if any was attempted.
    This seemed odd to me, but in asking around it became obvious that this was pretty much the common practice everywhere. We left the job, moved away and, woe are we, volunteered to help out with the Catholic parish in our new location after quietly being parishioners with no other responsibilities over a year+.

    If you want to have a really bad taste in your mouth, this is the way to acquire it. The lack of discipline was astonishing and the level of professional ethics was a serious problem. Rumors, gossip, rampant jealousies, etc. Priests, other musicians, parishioners were involved in some of the most unseemly behavior.

    We have moved again, and don't intend to be involved at all where we are. At nearly 81, I don't think we need any more of this foolishness.

    I am sorry to hear about your situation, but it does seem that many of the symptoms that you describe are common to the culture we live in. Most of the incredible rot we are observing in the world today is due to the failure of people to maintain standards in the moral/ethical realm, and as Plato and Aristotle both told us, aesthetic corruption is a sign of moral and ethical corruption. Draw your own conclusion about that.

    I wish that I had some good and optimism stimulating advice to offer, but there may be ways to make headway against this by holding high standards, even to the point of offending the bad actors in your situation.

    I believe our paths crossed in Michigan some long time ago and I know your work to be excellent. I hope you can live out your career continuing that excellence for the Glory of God! I'll pray for your success.
    Thanked by 2tomjaw CHGiffen
  • kevinfkevinf
    Posts: 1,178
    Leave...simple as that. Ive done 40+ years in Holy Mother Church. Go somewhere where yout efforts will be appreciated. They are out there.
    Thanked by 2tomjaw CHGiffen
  • I remember the enthusiasm you had when you took St Joseph's and am very sorry that things have soured. You deserve so much better. Have you considered academe? With your credentials and experience you might find it more rewarding as a professor there - and with greater appreciation.
    Thanked by 2tomjaw CHGiffen
  • jcr
    Posts: 131
    My overlong post above was primarily to point out that the withering away of discipline in the choir loft has been a problem for some time and will very likely continue to worsen. The only answer is to be able to develop a culture of discipline in your own little world. from what you described, it doesn't appear that you are going to gain the pastoral and staff member backing that is require to build this. Barring indications of a change of atmosphere in the parish, a job search may be the only avenue of approach.
    Thanked by 2tomjaw CHGiffen
  • ghmus7
    Posts: 1,450
    .
  • tandrews
    Posts: 156
    I can relate to the funeral thing (not naming names or places). I just stopped playing for funerals for a year until the pastor changed his mind. Then the business manager took 25% tax out of them (to her I asked " so you don't trust me to declare these on my taxes myself?" to which she said "yes"), so I upped my rate because $75 net pay is not enough to play a 4-hymn sandwich for a funeral when I could be doing my other musical duties. I guess that's a win?
  • This is all too common. One can only survive in this line of work as an act of love. Love for God, firstly, and also love for the Church and even love for our enemies in the Church who work to undermine our every effort. Years, or even decades of hard work, building a sacred music program can be undermined overnight with a new pastor who has a different or even indifferent vision for sacred music.

    One either sticks it out, offering up all the sufferings and uniting them to our Lord's, hoping for a better future, or one quits and finds other work. Our happiness lies in Heaven, not here.
  • francis
    Posts: 10,639
    Years, or even decades of hard work, building a sacred music program can be undermined overnight with a new pastor who has a different or even indifferent vision for sacred music.
    this.., is why the NO has a permanent faultline built into its very foundation.
  • CharlesW
    Posts: 11,927
    Although we have never met, I am well aware of your talent and abilities. You deserve better than this. Shake the dust from your sandals and move on.
    Thanked by 1tomjaw
  • ghmus7
    Posts: 1,450
    Update: there has been some improvements...though I am still hearing complaints. (I hate Latin) I think more parishioners are becoming interested in the music. The pastor leaves me alone generally. We will have work done the organ in spring.
    Choir is holding
    Thanked by 2a_f_hawkins tomjaw
  • Nisi
    Posts: 141
    this.., is why the NO has a permanent faultline built into its very foundation.

    To be fair, I'm pretty sure lots of poor clergy/musician relationships existed before 1970! One may point to complaints from the congregation -- to which I say 'Twas ever thus! -- but this is a case, as most, wherein the poor musician is not supported or even defended by the pastor. What's the old Italian saying -- "A fish stinks from the head down."?