||Fr. James McEnery composes music at the piano. (Peg Miller photo)
MADISON -- Fr. James McEnery, a pastor emeritus in the Diocese of Madison, has written a Mass setting for the new translation of the Roman Missal.
Alliance Publications, Inc., at the Dominican convent in Sinsinawa, located in the Diocese of Madison, is publishing the Mass in Honor of St. James the Great. All the necessary approvals from various bishops’ committees have been obtained.
Written for small choirs/parishes
“I’ve written the Mass setting with small choirs and parishes in mind,” said Father McEnery. “It is choir-tested and found to be easily sung. It has a straightforward melody without any repetitions.”
Some parts of the Mass are already being used at St. Peter Parish in Madison, where Father McEnery has assisted since his retirement.
Father McEnery started working on composing the Mass last year after priests of the diocese learned about the new translation at their annual assembly at Chula Visa Conference Center in Wisconsin Dells.
The Mass setting includes all the parts of the Mass, such as the “Kyrie,” “Gloria,” “Alleluia,” “Holy, Holy, Holy,” “Amen,” and “Lamb of God.”
It is available in a package with the score for organ and piano, one accompaniment, one CD, one octavo, choir copies, and one reprintable master for the people. The cost is just $50 for the package, which may be ordered through the Web site (www.apimusic.org) or by e-mail at
Mass for healing
Father McEnery has composed this Mass with the idea of remembering all the victims of abuse within the Church: individuals, families, and those falsely accused.
“We have all read about lawsuits and settlements, but the pain hardly ends there,” he said. “I know of one instance where the whole family has been devastated.”
So, before the title of the Mass, he has put the words: “For healing within the Church.”
“Thus, we shall not only be praising Almighty God, but also asking for healing for all those in pain. As St. Vincent de Paul said, ‘Your pain is my pain.’ I hope and pray this small effort will help us all,” said Father McEnery.
Writing since his youth
This is the first complete Mass setting Father McEnery has written, although he has written a “Kyrie” previously.
However, he has been writing since he was a boy. He wrote his first play when he was in sixth grade. It was called Room 202, and it was the story of a man locked out of his hotel room.
There have been more plays since then. In May of this year, for the first time, one of his works of art was performed onstage. His chamber play, Step Right Up, complete with musical numbers he composed, was performed by a troupe at St. Peter Parish in Madison for four shows.
Father McEnery described this play as a story about family relationships. In it, a widowed playwright and his agent find the rich older woman who will finance his play, but who insists her daughter will star in it. The writer and the daughter fall in love, but, with a cast of characters also including the writer’s son and a nurse, conflict and comedy ensue.
Patti Dischler, director of the show and a parishioner at St. Peter Parish who has worked in theater for more than 30 years, was excited to bring Father McEnery’s work to the stage. She has known Father McEnery for several years, but hadn’t before heard that he wrote plays. She brought together a group of actor friends and did a read-through of the script, and immediately knew she had to put it on the stage.
“To me, it’s amazing that we had this priest out there who had this talent, that we had a priest who did this and never talked about it, never bragged about it,” she said.
Father McEnery said, “Every priest has written homilies all their lives. We’re all writers.”
He said writing plays and fiction is another form of evangelization, of bringing the truth of God’s love to others.
“There are many ways of bringing the truth to the public: books, speeches, plays, theater,” he said. “The three transcendentals of being -- truth, goodness, and beauty -- we are all trying to participate in these as much as we can. And so when these three things are set before us, so much the better.”
Kat Wagner of the Catholic Herald staff contributed to this article.