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.

Neil Borgstrom

Neil Borgstrom
December 2, 1953 — October 2, 2022
Anyone who has labored in the field of liturgy in the last 35 or so years most likely has had their ministry enriched by the life and work of Neil Borgstrom. It is fair to say that one would be hard pressed to find an active or retired liturgical, musical, or pastoral minister who never read an article or book that had the benefit of his editing or proofreading; or even a practicing Catholic, for that matter, who had never sung a hymn that was proofread by Neil. His behind-the-scenes work was essential and the fruits of his contributions are widespread.

Born in Minneapolis on December 2, 1953, he attended Crosier Seminary Preparatory High School and junior college in Onamia, Minnesota. In 1974 Neil entered the Crosier novitiate in Hastings, Nebraska and continued his studies in Ft. Wayne, Indiana. After completing his bachelor’s degree at the University of Indiana with a double major in music and philosophy, Neil returned to Crosier Seminary to teach high school and college Music Appreciation and Music Theory while assisting the school choir and schola. He later attended Chicago Theological Union.

After about ten years as a Brother, his decision to separate from the Crosier Community was difficult, but, his integrity prevailed and, as is often the case, God certainly had other plans. Shortly after his departure, he landed a position at GIA Publications, Inc. (GIA) He began with routine proofreading and eventually worked his way up to an editor’s position. Through the years, he helped develop many of the company’s typesetting and layout standards and house styles, and soon became an essential member of the editorial staff. It quickly became apparent that his substantial background in theology and liturgy would be put to good use. During the same era, he served for a few years as Assistant Music Director and accompanist at Holy Rosary Church in Chicago’s historic Pullman district and held the same position for many years at Our Lady of the Woods Church in Orland Park, Illinois. (OLW) He held these three positions for over thirty-five years, having left GIA in 2018. After retiring from his position at OLW for reasons of health in 2020, he remained a member of the parish choir and the parish resurrection choir.

Neil was knowledgeable. Whatever the liturgical or musical question, he was always able to quickly find a book with the answer among his considerable and sometimes scattered office library. He would effortlessly open to the page with the relevant information, and as one was reading the answer, proceed to locate a different book either confirming the facts in question or presenting a different opinion on the matter. Later, in the same day, he was known to leave a post-it-note on the office door or computer screen of the person with the question just to verify or further explain his findings. When it came to the correct fact, the man was inquisitive and meticulous, a living and breathing, liturgical Google search! The Chicago Manual of Style was the bible of his career and he could quote nearly every page; to that end, he continued to study and attend editing and proof-reading seminars throughout his days on the job. It was often said that Neil was able to decipher if a period was keystroked with or without italics! Whenever complimented on his skill or depth of knowledge, forever the humble humorist, Neil liked to describe himself as, “The kid who got straight A’s in school, but flunked out of life!”

Among the countless publications that benefited from his expertise, Neil’s finest hour may well have been his contribution to GIA’s Hymnal Companion to Worship—Third Edition. Published in 1998, the book presents the origins and backgrounds on the hymn texts and tunes contained in Worship—Third Edition plus interesting biographies of the many hymn writers and tune composers both living and deceased, that are featured in the book. With its 857 entries and 138 pages of appendices and indices, facts and figures abound. It was in many ways at once an editor’s ultimate challenge and a dream project as well. This historic publication took many years to complete and remains a major contribution to the world of hymnody. The fine work of authors Marilyn Kay Stulken and Catherine Salika was enhanced and complemented by Neil’s scrupulous editing and proofing. Affectionately, in the works acknowledgments section, the above-mentioned authors recognized Neil for his “careful and cheerful editing.”

Some of his many day-to-day endeavors included the GIA Quarterly, Sunday’s Word, Worship Week Calendar, all of GIA’s catalogs and advertisements, plus hymnal, after hymnal, after hymnal, after hymnal. For many years, hardly one printed item or online bit of information the company released to the public ever saw the light of day without having first been proofed by Neil Borgstrom. In addition to his work at the office, he very much enjoyed the hustle and bustle at the sales booth and filling convention centers and cathedrals with song during liturgies and showcases when he helped represent GIA at a number of National Association of Pastoral Musicians Conventions and Los Angeles Religious Education Congresses back in the heyday of those revered gatherings.

A humble, faith-filled, and prayer centered man, Neil was definitely, “one of the good guys.” He loved to hear or tell a splendid joke and likewise revel in the irony or humor of a particular story. Any intricate play on words also captured his attention and interest. Throughout his life, he was an avid reader, devouring book after book, whether history, mystery, or music. He was fascinated by railroad trains, attended train shows, and loved to explore train books and paraphernalia. His idea of a vacation was to take a long train ride along some meandering rail route and, whenever possible, he traveled by train rather than air.

Through it all, his affection for and connection with the Crosier Community never ceased. He forever remained in touch with his former confreres and visited them often. His breviary from his days in community never left his side; he prayed the office daily. Whenever a discussion of the present-day lack of vocations occurred, he loved to tell the story of how the Crosiers were reduced to just four members after the Reformation and French Revolution but blossomed in subsequent centuries and today number about 400 members.

In recent years, he dealt with several challenging health issues. On the evening of October 2, 2022, he went to bed “not feeling very well” and slipped into eternity. God granted this gentle man a peaceful passing.

A gathering of singers and players from OLW and the Southwest Parish Musicians Association formed the choir for his funeral mass. They were joined by an assembly of his dear family, OLW parishioners, many friends, the pastor of OLW, Fr. Mike Foley, six additional concelebrants including Crosier Fr. Dale Ettel, and retired Chicago Auxiliary Bishop John Gorman. Under the direction of OLW director of music, Andy Perz, everyone raised the roof in song. The liturgy began with a robust singing of “O God Beyond All Praising” and concluded with a rousing rendition of all seven verses of “All Creatures of Our God and King” as he was carried out of church and placed into the waiting hearse. John Maier, Neil’s longtime and good friend, who is also a staff member at OLW, planned the celebration. His remains were entombed in Good Shepherd Cemetery in Orland Park, Illinois.

Tribute prepared by Michael A. Cymbala with help from Neil’s brother Joe and his close friend, John Maier.