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In gratitude to Gail Walton

| Tuesday, March 2, 2010

I was among those who were deeply saddened to receive word of the death of Dr. Gail Walton on Wednesday. I only know a small fraction of the students who had worked with Gail during her many years as director of music at the Basilica of the Sacred Heart, but in the wake of her passing, all have expressed remarkable sentiments of gratitude. She was a trusted mentor, who helped instill lifelong passions for choral music. Some tell me they are indebted to her for their entire professional careers in Church music, and still others affirm that Gail played a key role in their decisions to enter the Catholic Church, by her example of faith and by her devotion to beauty and reverence in sacred music.
For my own part, I will be eternally grateful to Gail for providing me an opportunity to appreciate the grandeur and breadth of the Church’s living liturgical tradition. When I first came to Notre Dame, I had never experienced time-honored hymnody, the use of the pipe organ, choral masterpieces or Gregorian chant at Mass before. She fostered a repertoire and culture of prayer that broadened my perspective and shaped my love for the Mass. I was also blessed to get to know Gail better in recent years. On a personal level, Gail helped my wife, a Liturgical Choir alumna, and me to prepare our wedding music at the Basilica. And at a professional level, I found Gail always open to service of the Church, both within and beyond the campus of Notre Dame.
The last month has seen the University of Notre Dame suffer the loss of two great figures in her Catholic heritage. First, the death of Dr. Ralph McInerny, and now the passing of Dr. Walton. The former devoted his prolific academic career to the integrity of the Catholic intellectual and literary tradition. Gail’s influence came in subtle form, through her commitment to the evangelizing power of the Church’s artistic treasury. In liturgical studies, we are taught that the manner in which we pray lays the foundation for what we believe. Gail Walton may not have realized during her earthly life how catechetical her work was, but I suspect it has helped many to encounter the Divine in a profound way.
May her legacy live on, and may she rest in peace amidst the communion of Saints and the choirs of Angels.

Brian MacMichael
class of 2004
MTS, class of 2006
March 2