Father Jan Michael Joncas, a member of the University of St. Thomas community for 40 of his 60 years, has been named a university artist-in-residence and fellow of St. Thomas’ Center for Catholic Studies.
A 1975 St. Thomas graduate and a faculty member since 1991, Joncas will no longer teach courses but instead is free to research and write, compose and lecture. He will continue to be a tenured member of the faculty, live in a university-owned home on Summit Avenue and maintain an office in Sitzmann Hall, home to the Center for Catholic Studies.
“Father Joncas is an accomplished teacher who has received the Distinguished Educator Award from our students,” said Dr. Susan Huber, executive vice president and chief academic officer. “He also is an internationally acclaimed author and composer. Being artist-in-residence frees him to more fully devote his creative talents to scholarship and music that benefit the university, community and church.”
A reception celebrating his appointment will be held from 3 to 5 p.m. Monday, Nov. 12, in the Hearth Room of the Anderson Student Center on the university’s St. Paul campus. A short program will be held at 4 p.m.; all are welcome.
“I am deeply grateful for an opportunity like this,” Joncas said of the appointment. “For an academic, this is like heaven.” He added that he has no plans to retire, saying “this is perfect.”
After graduating with a degree in English from St. Thomas and earning his master’s in liturgical studies at the University of Notre Dame, Joncas returned to Minnesota where he studied at the St. Paul Seminary and was ordained in 1980.
He was a parish priest for several years, served several more as director of education at the Newman Community at the University of Minnesota, and studied in Rome for four years where he earned graduate degrees in his academic specialty: the history and analysis of Christian worship. Woven throughout his years of serious academic study, writing and teaching was his work as a composer.
For most of his years on the St. Thomas faculty, Joncas offered to teach extra classes. He also found time to teach graduate courses and present workshops throughout the world, write four books dealing with liturgy, publish dozens of scholarly articles, and compose … and in some cases record … 25 collections of liturgical music. One of his best-known works is “On Eagles’ Wings.”
He is a regular contributor to “Pray, Tell,” a blog hosted by St. John’s Abbey and Liturgical Press in Collegeville, and recently had a volume of hymn texts accepted for publication by Oregon Catholic Press.
He is working on three books and recently has been traveling to Chicago to record 12 new works of liturgical music that he composed and arranged. He will be singing on some works in the collection, titled “God of All Beginnings.”
Joncas recently collaborated with the Gichitwaa Kateri Catholic community in Minneapolis to create a hymn honoring Kateri Tekawitha, who was canonized as a Catholic saint on Oct. 21. He also is continuing to work on two long-term composition projects: setting all of the responsorial psalms and the hymn-of-the-day texts for the three-year Sunday and Solemnity lectionary cycles of the Roman Rite Mass.