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The St. Louis Jesuits are shown in 1979. They are, front row from left, Father Roc O'Connor and Dan Schutte, and back row, Father Bob Dufford, Father John Foley and Tim Manion. The men met in St. Louis in the 1970s when they were seminarians.
The St. Louis Jesuits are shown in 1979. They are, front row from left, Father Roc O'Connor and Dan Schutte, and back row, Father Bob Dufford, Father John Foley and Tim Manion. The men met in St. Louis in the 1970s when they were seminarians.

The St. Louis Jesuits to play one more time

The St. Louis Jesuits — the fathers of contemporary liturgical music — to play one more time

It’s a return to their roots — one last time.

A concert at Powell Hall in St. Louis on Sept. 29 will mark the last time liturgical composer-performers Dan Schutte, Tim Manion and Jesuit Fathers Bob Dufford, John Foley and Roc O’Connor take the stage together as the St. Louis Jesuits. Powell Hall is just a short walk from Saint Louis University, where the young Jesuit scholastics met and began composing music in the early 1970s.

The St. Louis Jesuits, as they became known, produced and published more than 150 liturgical songs and hymns. They produced many more individually. Songs such as “City of God,” “Earthen Vessels,” “Be Not Afraid,” “This Alone,” “One Bread, One Body” and “Lift Up Your Hearts” are heard in churches across the globe.

Their recordings garnered Grammy nominations throughout the 1970s, and their 1975 “Earthen Vessels” album is one of the best-selling albums of Catholic music ever, with more than one million copies sold to date.

The depth of the music, the spirituality, made it markedly different from the sweet-sounding “all-join-hands” brotherhood guitar music that abounded at the time. Father Foley said the theory at that time was that there was little emphasis on Scripture among Catholics. “So we thought of taking the actual words of Scripture and setting them to music they’d like, people would get to know Scripture, at least some of it. And that’s what happened,” he said.

Nicholas Moramarco, music director at Immacolata Parish in Richmond Heights and music instructor at Fontbonne University, said people connect to the poetic nature of the lyrics. “You can’t do liturgical music without the St. Louis Jesuits. Their impact has been more than significant. It’s sort of shaped the way St. Louis Catholics think about liturgical music for the past two, maybe even three generations,” Moramarco said.

Father Foley is the only one of the five still based in St. Louis. He lives at Jesuit Hall across from St. Francis Xavier (College) Church on the SLU campus.

Father Foley grew up listening to a variety of music, and his mom tuned in opera every Saturday on the radio. He studied piano since age 5 and continued learning about playing the instrument and studying music at Wichita State University. But he had no expectations of being so involved in music as a Jesuit. At the novitiate in Florissant, the novice director asked him to arrange music, he recalled, and he had to make his own music paper using a ruler. There also was no piano available, so “I learned to make do,” he said.

He met the late Jesuit Father John Kavanaugh there, who served as director of the choir. They collaborated on simple music pieces for liturgies and other songs before renewing their musical pursuits when they returned to SLU for theology studies in 1969. The pair became “Merlin Records” and produced their own two-record nonliturgical but spiritual album, “Ways to Get Through.”

When Father Foley began to study theology at Saint Louis University, he said, he heard that the other Jesuits were writing music for Mass at the former Fusz Memorial residence for Jesuit scholastics. “So I went over there and said, ‘Why don’t we put all our music together?’ They said, ‘I don’t know, why not?’ So we started writing it down. Dan Schutte has a very good hand, so he copied it all out. And that’s what came out as the first album called ‘Neither Silver Nor Gold,’” Father Foley recalled.

In those early days while living at Fusz Memorial on the SLU campus, the St. Louis Jesuits did the music for Masses, and it soon became a full house. The Jesuits were besieged for requests for sheet music and were on the verge of printing a collection themselves when North American Liturgical Resources proposed not only a book of music but a demonstration album as well. The team of Foley, Kavanaugh, Schutte, Dufford and Manion recorded 53 songs, antiphons and Mass parts issued under the four-record set in 1974. It was recorded in a living room and in the basement of Fusz Memorial.

They didn’t pick the name “St. Louis Jesuits” — people just started referring to them by that name, taken from the subtitle of the first album.

Later, the album “Dwelling Place” was recorded at a studio, Father Foley said, but the musicians noticed a distortion so they walked away with the tape and went to another studio. The police came and took their producer to jail. The deal they made let them keep the tape for 24 hours while they worked on the mixing. They stayed up all night.

Composing takes some work, Father Foley noted, starting with words, sometimes with melodies, sometimes both together. “My theory is that when we’re in a composing spot, the brain checks out. I don’t have a plan for it. It just happens.”

He’s glad to hear the songs in church, “and if they’re playing them anywhere near the original, then I’m really glad.”

He demonstrated by singing a few words from “One Bread, One Body” too slow and then too fast.

According to St. Louis Jesuit and the concert’s producer Father Roc O’Connor, the title and theme of the concert, “Coming Home,” also refer to the group’s desire to “get back together with old friends who helped us in our early days and all along the way, and being able to thank them for all that love and support.”

>> The concert

“The St. Louis Jesuits – Coming Home” is the final concert of the St. Louis Jesuits, the last time that Father Bob Dufford, SJ, Father John Foley, SJ, Tim Manion, Father Roc O’Connor, SJ, and Dan Schutte will perform together.

The St. Louis Jesuits, backed by the College Church Choir, will perform liturgical songs and hymns in Powell Hall, just a few blocks north of Saint Louis University, St. Francis Xavier (College) Church, and the former Fusz Memorial (residence for Jesuit scholastics), where it all began nearly 50 years ago.

WHEN: 3 p.m. Sunday, Sept. 29

WHERE: Powell Hall, 718 N. Grand Blvd. in St. Louis

TICKETS: $15-65 (a 1 p.m. VIP Pre-Concert Reception is an additional $50). All proceeds after expenses benefit the Ignatian Spirituality Project. Tickets may be purchased at the Powell Hall Box Office, by phone at (314) 534-1700, or online at www.powellhall.com.

>> Ignatian Spirituality Project

The national project, which benefits from the St. Louis Jesuits’ concert, started about a decade ago in the St. Louis area. The project offers men and women who are homeless and in recovery from addiction the opportunity to change their spiritual lives. The retreats lay a foundation of hope, leading to further and long-lasting transformation.

The retreats incorporate Ignatian spirituality exercises — a series of meditations, prayers and mental exercises to help people discern God’s will for their lives and grow closer to Him. The format is an initial weekend retreat, followed by a daylong follow-up session.

In St. Louis, the program was introduced when project coordinators in Chicago approached St. Patrick Center, a Catholic Charities agency that provides services for people who are homeless.

For information, visit www.ignatianspiritualityproject.org.

>> Facts about the St. Louis Jesuits

• The five members of the St. Louis Jesuits account for 91 of the song titles in the latest edition of the popular Catholic hymnal Glory & Praise.

• The group’s first album, the four-album set Neither Silver Nor Gold, with over 50 songs, was recorded in under four weeks.

• The group’s second album Earthen Vessels, released in 1975, became the biggest-selling liturgical album to that time, with more than a million copies sold.

• “The St. Louis Jesuit Mass” (1973), co-authored by Father Bob Dufford and Dan Schutte, was the most-used Mass setting in the United States during the 1970s and 1980s.

• Father Dufford’s “Be Not Afraid” is sung by Susan Sarandon in the role of Sister Helen Prejean in the movie Dead Man Walking.

• Schutte’s “Mass of Christ the Savior,” released in 2012, is today one of the most widely used Mass settings throughout the English-speaking world.

• Father Dufford’s “Be Not Afraid” was requested by President Bill Clinton to be performed during the Inaugural Prayer Service at his 1997 Inauguration.

• Schutte’s compositions have been recorded by many notable Christian artists such as Amy Grant and John Michael Talbot.

• Father John Foley’s classical composition “A Movement for Orchestra,” was premiered by the Louisville Orchestra under the direction of Robert Bernhardt in their 1982 orchestra season, was featured nationwide on National Public Radio, and was recorded and released by the Louisville Orchestra in 1988.

• Father Foley earned a doctorate in liturgical theology from the Graduate Theological Union in Berkeley, California.

• In 1993 Father Foley founded the Stroble Center for Liturgy at Saint Louis University.

• Father Foley has composed the music for several musicals including Merlin and the Wart, Westering, and Moment of Spring, as well as the musical play/concert Like Winter Waiting and the musical drama As a River of Light.

>> A sample of the music of the St. Louis Jesuits

Be Not Afraid • Bob Dufford, SJ

Search Youtube: Journey Songs Be Not Afraid


One Bread One Body • John Foley, SJ

Search Youtube: Journey Songs One Bread One Body


This Alone • Tim Manion

Search Youtube: Journey Songs This Alone


Jesus, the Lord • Roc O’Connor, SJ

Search Youtube: Journey Songs Jesus, the Lord

Jesus the Lord

Here I Am, Lord • Dan Schutte

Search Youtube: Journey Songs Here I Am, Lord

Here I Am, Lord

Also visit the St. Louis Jesuits website





All the St. Louis Jesuits music is published by OCP and available in both recorded and sheet music format.

Jesuit Father John Foley played on a piano in Jesuit Hall July 2
Photo Credits: Lisa Johnston

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