1915 - 1992
On Wednesday, August 12, Sister Theophane taught her regular class at the NPM School of Organists in Milwaukee, at Alverno College. Always ready to do more than was expected, she then gave private lessons to one of the participants in the school. She went to sleep that evening and was found dead the next morning. It seems that she did not struggle when death came to take her. Stunned at the news, the faculty and students of the school gathered to celebrate the Eucharist, led by faculty members Rev. Ronald Brassard, Dr. James Kosnik, and Theophane's close friends Sr. Mary Jane Wagner, SSSF, and Sr. Mary Hueller, SSSF.
Born in 1915, Theophane's early interest in religion and music led her to become a School Sister of St. Francis and, through her work as a pastoral musician, educator, organist, and composer, she was recognized, even before Vatican II, as a leader in the field of liturgical music. She held master's degrees in organ and composition as well as a doctorate in composition from the University of Rochester, and she was a fellow of the American Guild of Organists. Her published works include Masses, motets, psalms, hymns, and organ compositions. Her Pilgrim Mass was commissioned for the 41st International Eucharistic Congress in 1976. In recent years she had "retired" from full-time teaching to become the organ and liturgy consultant for the Archdiocese of Milwaukee and Alverno College.
Sister Theophane played a key role in the founding of the National Association of Pastoral Musicians in 1976, serving on our first board of directors. She had long recognized the church's need for musical and liturgical excellence coupled with a realistic commitment to serve in a parish situation. In fact, she helped us define the skills needed by a "pastoral musician" in an early issue of Pastoral Music. There (October-November 1977 [2:1] 18-9) she listed the skills required of pastoral musicians. She wrote, "The skills of the church musician must be those, first of all, of a good musician." But to be pastoral, she said, a musician must also "experience a musical leadership role in a given community by implementing worship . . . in collaboration with others." And that role requires liturgical, communication, and management skills as well. Above all, she made clear, the musician's focus must be on the singing assembly, for the musician must "select . . . lead . . . and teach . . . the music of the congregation."
No doubt a key reason for the high quality of music and liturgy in the Midwest today is due to the day-to-day leadership of Sister Theophane Hytrek. Catholic musicians will miss her leadership.
Tribute prepared by NPM staff, published in Pastoral Music, October-November 1992, pg. 8. Reprinted with permission.