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Foley, John locked

  • Kathleen Sewright

(b Peoria, IL, July 14, 1939). American jesuit priest, educator, and composer. Best known for the post–Vatican II Catholic liturgical congregational music he composed as one of the “St. Louis Jesuits” in the 1960s and 70s, Foley is nevertheless primarily an educator in the field of liturgy. He earned a PhD in Theology (specialty in Liturgy and Aesthetics) from Graduate Theological Union (1993); studied music at the University of Wichita and St. Louis University; and pursued further composition studies with Samuel Dolin, Reginald Smith Brindle, Paul Fetler, and Dominick Argento.

In addition to founding and serving as the director of the St. Louis University Center for Liturgy, Foley has taught liturgy among other courses at the university. His diverse publications include a book, Creativity and the Roots of Liturgy (Pastoral Press, 1994). His dedication to writing prayerful, scripture-based, and accessible vernacular liturgical music for assemblies led naturally to his founding of the National Liturgical Composers Forum.

Foley’s congregational songs for Catholic liturgies draw on a variety of tonal styles (country for “Son of David,” bluegrass for “Mighty Lord,” for example) yet are somewhat more advanced harmonically (“May we praise You” and “Patience, People”) than those of the other St. Louis Jesuits. His most successful compositions incorporate SATB choir (“The Christ of God,” “Come to the water,” “One Bread, One Body”), and most of his songs employ either refrain-verse form (“The Cry of the Poor,” “Earthen Vessels”) or strophic form (“This is the day,” “Who Has Known”). Several of his songs have found a place in hymnals as classics of congregational sung prayer.