This web site is a memorial to those individuals who were passionate about the reform of the
Roman Catholic liturgy as set forth in Sacrosanctum Concilium (the Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy)
and who now, in eternal life, worship the God whom they served in this life.

Robert Hovda

Robert W. Hovda
April 10, 1920 - February 5, 1992

In the normal course of events this column [“The Amen Corner” in Worship] would have been written by Father Robert W. Hovda, but as many of our readers already know, he died suddenly on 5 February 1992 in his simple apartment in New York City. His funeral liturgy was celebrated at the oratory of Saint Boniface in Brooklyn, New York, where he frequently worshiped with the Oratorians following his retirement from Saint Joseph’s Church in Greenwich Village. Since Father Hovda was a priest of the Diocese of Fargo, a funeral liturgy was also celebrated in Saint Mary’s Cathedral in Fargo. Both liturgies attracted many of Bob’s friends who came from far and near to thank God for the significant deeds that had taken place in their lives and the life of the Church and world through the ministry of their special friend. Both Eucharists were indeed celebrations of gratitude and praise. There were friends from the Catholic Worker and the North American Academy of Liturgy, from the Paraclete Bookshop and the Liturgical Conference, from Saint John’s Abbey and the National Association of Pastoral Musicians, from Liturgy Training Publications and Saint Joseph’s Parish in New York, from the Fargo presbyterate and the parish of Berlin, North Dakota, where Bob once served as pastor. All who gathered were deeply saddened by his death but thankful that their lives had been blessed by friendship with a man who was a committed Christian minister bringing us new insights, calling us to live more justly, and inviting us to see beauty and goodness where we had become blind.

Saint John’ Abbey and University held an important place in Father Hovda’s heart. He became a Roman Catholic in 1943 while waiting trial for his stance as a conscientious objector. Shortly thereafter he decided to pursue study for ordination to the priesthood. As he noted in his response to the North American Academy of Liturgy’s Berakah Award in 1982 (Worship, vol. 56, pp. 344-56), he met much rejection but was finally accepted at Saint John’s “without money or diocesan affiliation.” He said he could not have imagined another place where he could have survived, with his opinions and brashness, much less where he “could have been initiated into the savingly ancient Benedictine tradition, an orthodoxy untainted by Counter-Reformation hysteria, the writers and speakers and visitors who gravitated to such an oasis,…and a prayerful and serious liturgy.” Bob in turn made a significant contribution to Saint John’s by writing “The Amen Corner” for Worship from 1983 until his death.

Father Hovda gave countless lectures at liturgical conferences across the country and wrote numerous articles, but his most important contribution to liturgical theology and ministry would surely include Strong, Loving and Wise: Presiding in Liturgy, first published by the Liturgical Conference in 1976 and now available through The Liturgical Press, and his work on Art and Environment in Catholic Worship, issued by the Bishops’ Committee on Liturgy in 1978. It has been said that the latter is one of the most impressive liturgical documents published in any language since the Second Vatican Council. Bob Hovda was the visionary behind the text and the principal writer of the document.

Each Christmas his many friends looked forward to his greeting. The card was either an original design by Frank Kacmarcik or a handsome reproduction from the Metropolitan Museum of Art in which Bob had inserted one of his prose-poems and usually a personal note. These poems have been treasured by those who received them. The one he shared with us in 1989 was especially powerful and provocative; its theme was the role of the prophet in our world and Church set out by one who was himself surely a prophet.

“There had not been such great distress in Israel
since the time prophets ceased to appear among the people” (1Mc 9:27).
Day of the Prophet: flesh-word, prospect given to the blind,
announced to the deaf, served by the powerless…
Day of Light: ferret-dawn lifting a self-seeking and time-serving veil
with license to pursue the happiness we call “God’s reign.”
Day of opportunity: to confess our blindness and our deafness
and the folly of our power, that we might see and hear and be prophets.

For all that Robert Hovda did for Worship over the years, the editors are deeply grateful. We are pleased to share with our readers some further reflections by Virginia Sloyan, long associated with Father Hovda at the Liturgical Conference, and the homily that Father Gerard Sloyan gave at the funeral liturgy in Brooklyn on 8 February 1992.

Tribute taken from Worship, 1992, pg. 263. Reprinted with permission.