Longtime friend of Bishop-elect Neary writes hymn for ordination Mass

The Diocese of St. Cloud’s mission statement was created in the 1990s and includes this core proclamation: “Our mission is to be His heart of mercy, voice of hope, and hands of justice.”

The statement served as the vision for a new hymn written for the Feb. 14 episcopal ordination of Bishop-elect Patrick Neary, C.S.C., by his longtime friend and University of Notre Dame colleague Steven Warner.

Steven Warner

Warner is a composer and choral conductor, who is best known for founding the Notre Dame Folk Choir in 1980. After receiving his master’s degree in theology and liturgy from Notre Dame, he worked in campus ministry at the school from 1980 to 2016 before moving to Dublin, Ireland, in 2016 to work as the associate director of the Notre Dame-Newman Centre for Faith and Reason.

Warner met Father Neary in the early 1990s, when both men were involved in campus ministry. Since then, the two have stayed in touch, with Father Patrick even presiding at the wedding of Warner and his wife, Michele.

“[It] was a very natural outgrowth from all of our work together. [Father Patrick] and I worked very intently on wanting to really validate the Hispanic population at Notre Dame,” he said.

Although Warner retired in 2021, he is still involved musically, and it was his musical talents and deep-rooted friendship with Bishop-elect Neary that moved him to write an original song for the bishop-elect’s ordination based on the Diocese of St. Cloud’s mission statement.

“When I went to St. Cloud’s website, there it is right there: ‘heart of mercy, voice of hope, hands of justice.’ And I’m like, what a stunning mission statement for a diocese,” he said. “It’s very humbling to be able to put music around a lofty ideal.”

Warner wanted it to feature both English and Spanish.

“Knowing Father Patrick the way I do, I know that [it being] bilingual is very important to him,” he said.

Warner said he also was motivated “simply out of genuine admiration and love” for his friend.

“I can’t be there [at the ordination]. … I wanted to have a way to be present and create a gift for him, so you put all those things down on the table — the mission statement of the diocese, Father Pat’s very strongly held resolve for bilingual expression, and then the motivation of friendship and love — and that set the gears going,” Warner said.

The piece — titled “Heart of Mercy/Corazón de Misericordia” — features a kind of mantra, or a “repeated piece of music that people can grab onto,” Warner explained. For Warner’s hymn, it is: “Let us love with a heart of mercy; let us sing with a voice of hope; may our hands of justice be strength for the poor.”

“The funny thing about this was that I ended up throwing out three different versions of it. None of them seemed to work well for me. Then I was sitting up in the living room and one measure came to me, and it’s like, ‘That’s it, that’s it.’ So you run downstairs and start writing it out,” he said.

The piece includes verses from Isaiah 42 which will be used for the Old Testament reading at the ordination Mass.

Warner said the piece will be sung twice. It will be used in the background during the fraternal sign of peace, when the clergy in the sanctuary exchange the sign of peace with the bishop, and then used as the recessional, or closing, song.

Warner hopes to get the piece published. He said he wrote it for the diocese to use as it pleases.

Father Neary’s appointment as bishop was announced Dec. 15 by Archbishop Christophe Pierre, apostolic nuncio to the United States. Warner said he can think of “no better man” for the job.

“I know Pat as a friend, as a colleague. I know he is extraordinarily optimistic; he meets people where they are. … When you look at Pope Francis’ admonition about choosing men to be bishops that are no strangers to their flock, that understand that they need to be in the midst of their flock, I could think of no better man that epitomizes that in my mind than Pat Neary.”

Top photo: Adobe Stock

Author: Gianna Bonello

Gianna Bonello is a multimedia reporter for The Central Minnesota Catholic Magazine.

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