Maggie Gallagher appointed to lead Benedict XVI Institute for Sacred Music and Divine Worship in San Francisco

A liturgical institute established in 2014 by Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone of San Francisco will be revamped to broaden its focus beyond forming ministers of sacred music and liturgy and to “reclaim the Catholic imagination”, especially through literature.

The Benedict XVI Institute for Sacred Music and Divine Worship will be re-imagined “as a centre for promoting Catholic culture”, continuing its emphasis on promoting sacred music, particularly chant, the archbishop announced.

The board has appointed Maggie Gallagher, a senior fellow at the Washington-based American Principles Project, as the institute’s new executive director.

Gallagher, 56, graduated from Yale University in 1982 with a bachelor’s degree in religious studies and has been published in the Wall Street Journal and the New York Times and has written several books. She is the founder and former president of the Institute for Marriage and Public Policy, a non-profit organisation focused on research and public education on marriage and family law.

The institute’s new emphasis was hammered out in January in meetings with Gallagher, the archbishop and three professors at St Patrick’s Seminary & University in Menlo Park, the institute’s planned future base. The expanded vision was presented to the board for its deliberation and approval.

The institute was founded to support pastors in their efforts to form lay people for liturgical ministries, including music directors, parish musicians, readers and extraordinary ministers of Holy Communion.

In its new format, the institute will host at least four lectures on topics related to Catholic art, music, architecture and literature, with at least one of the lectures on some aspect of chant. The institute will host at least one concert of sacred music at the seminary, or a liturgical service such as vespers featuring sacred music.

“For me, Benedict XVI is about opening the door of beauty to God to as many who want to enter by that path,” Gallagher told Catholic San Francisco, the archdiocesan newspaper. “The Mass, the liturgy and sacred music are indispensable. But encouraging a culture of Catholic art and storytelling is another closely connected goal. San Francisco’s amazingly ethnically diverse parishes provide many doors to beauty I’m excited to explore and promote.”

The institute also will promote the work of Benedictine Fr Samuel Weber, who teaches at the seminary and is known for his Gregorian chant compositions.

Gallagher will lead the institute from her home in Virginia and in addition will travel regularly to the archdiocese to carry out her work locally. She also expects to be on the road fundraising and promoting the institute nationally.

“I do think we are going to help foster a very vibrant Catholic culture in sacred music and the arts,” Gallagher said. “I know the archbishop is also interested in taking advantage of the ethnic diversity of this area as it is reflected in liturgies throughout the archdiocese.

“We are going to continue the mission of providing practical resources for the liturgy and sacred music and expand it in a way that people will be really interested,” Gallagher said.

Archbishop Cordileone wants the institute’s vision to develop collaboratively with the board but shared some initial thoughts with Catholic San Francisco.

“This is a broadening of the institute’s mission to include the complete beauty of the Church’s rich patrimony,” he said. “Education and instruction is probably a starting point leading us over time to the Catholic sense of formation.”

The archbishop said ethnic diversity in the institute’s programming could include Tongan sacred music and Vietnamese sacred music, which he noted are very harmonious with sacred music in the European tradition.

“Examining this could be enriching for all of sacred music,” the archbishop said. “And both Latin-American and California Mission-era music, both Latin and Spanish language, are beautiful examples well worth studying.”