In 1992, Linda Schafer undertook direction of St. Boniface’s choir, later entitled the St. Boniface Schola Cantorum, a post she retained when Fr. Timothy Alkire became pastor of St. Boniface Parish in 1994. Together, church organist Scott Kemmer, Linda Schafer, and Fr. Alkire began a project to renew liturgical music at St. Boniface in the spirit of the directives of the Second Vatican Council. The challenges were these:
- To obey the directives of the Council by giving Gregorian chant ”pride of place” (Sacrosanctum Concilium, #116), and also to orient the music to the standards first articulated by Pope St. Pius X in 1903: holiness, true artistry, and universality (Tra lle sollecitudini, #8).
- To form a repertoire for the choir with increasing emphasis on Gregorian chant, polyphony, and more traditional hymnody; and to assist the congregation with “full, conscious, and active participation in liturgical celebrations” (Sacrosanctum Concilium, #14) by producing a usable collection of music which could serve the needs of a bi-lingual parish of over 3,000 members in all the diverse aspects of parish life from Mass, weddings, and funerals, to Benediction, Vespers, and Eucharistic Processions.
The goal was to begin at St. Boniface, in a small way, with patience and charity, the reclamation and restoration of the musical patrimony of the Catholic Church.
The St. Boniface Schola Cantorum and the St. Michael Hymnal were the final result of this effort. The St. Michael Hymnal was first published for the use of the parish in 1998. Growing interest, beginning first with several parishes in the Diocese of Lincoln, and then spreading by word of mouth, convinced Fr. Alkire to publish the hymnal officially and make it available to parishes around the country.
The hymnal, about to go into its fourth edition (Summer 2011) has seen numerous printings and has sold tens of thousands of copies. Its reputation continues to grow, both for the orthodoxy of its texts and for the beauty of its musical collection.