Mass setting is musician’s gift to Saint Joseph

Reading Time: 5 minutes
The Mass of St Joseph is not only the culmination of a decade-long dream, but a gift offered to the Church in thanksgiving. Photo: Mathew De Sousa
The Mass of St Joseph is not only the culmination of a decade-long dream, but a gift offered to the Church in thanksgiving. Photo: Mathew De Sousa

For the parish of Saint Joseph’s in Moorebank, this year dedicated to its patron has been a particularly fruitful one.

From the formation of a Schola to the installation of a new shrine, parishioners have been inspired to see the fruition of their ideas through their saint’s intercession.

The year comes to a close this 8 December, but not before Somascan Fathers Mathew Velliyamkandathil CRS and Chris De Sousa CRS were blessed with one final gift in the form of an original Mass setting in honour of Saint Joseph titled ‘Patris Corde’ (‘With a father’s heart’).

“The Year of St Joseph was basically God’s way of saying to me – ‘You have been promising to write this Mass for years, now is the time’.”

The Mass was the creation of Moorebank parishioner Ric Mills, an award-winning independent film composer in the classical tradition, who has worked alongside a plethora of international directors, producers and conductors.

Ric began his professional musical career at the age of 13 and has always had a deep love for sacred music.

“It is beautiful, inspiring and when repertoire is sung with heart and passion it can take one back hundreds of years to when religious experiences were in their most raw and perfect form,” he said.

“The music, which has lasted because it is seemingly simple and accessible, has influenced my own work greatly.”

The Mass was the creation of Moorbank parishioner Ric Mills, an award-winning independent film composer in the classical tradition, who has worked alongside a plethora of international directors, producers and conductors. Photo: Mathew De Sousa
The Mass was the creation of Moorbank parishioner Ric Mills, an award-winning independent film composer in the classical tradition, who has worked alongside a plethora of international directors, producers and conductors. Photo: Mathew De Sousa

Though the Mass of St Joseph saw its completion during the last lockdown, Ric had spent the past decade growing in inspiration with the desire to compose a Mass setting himself.

“I think I actually conceived the theme for the Gloria back in 2010 when I composed a motet for my daughter’s Baptism where I was lucky enough to have it in the service sung by the adult cathedral singers of St Mary’s Cathedral in Sydney,” said Mr Mills.

“His letter begins ‘With a Father’s heart … that is how Joseph loved Jesus’, and that is the core message in the music of this Mass.”

“The theme stuck with me and I kept ‘meaning’ to turn it into a musical work somehow, someday.

“During the second lockdown of 2021 and in the year of Saint Joseph the impetus came and with the gift of the Holy Spirit the Mass of St Joseph came into being.

“The Year of St Joseph was basically God’s way of saying to me – ‘You have been promising to write this Mass for years, now is the time’.”

The original Mass setting was composed in honour of Saint Joseph titled ‘Patris Corde’ (‘With a father’s heart’). Photo: Mathew De Sousa
The original Mass setting was composed in honour of Saint Joseph titled ‘Patris Corde’ (‘With a father’s heart’). Photo: Mathew De Sousa

The Moorebank musician found much inspiration while listening to popular Mass service settings by well-known Australian and British composers.

Unfortunately, drawing inspiration from complex settings such as the Magnificat and Nunc Dimittis by Howells and Stanford posed a problem.

“The challenge became clear from the start to try and create something ‘singable’ but also not so basic that it sounded pedestrian,” he said.

“I wanted to create a piece of work that would be inspiring but also accessible to the average parish so it could be used as far and as wide as possible.

“This is very much why the music is written for piano only and deliberately set out in a ‘playable’ way for an intermediate musician, with optional simple but beautiful sounding harmonies on the end phrases.

“I think the end result is a very memorable Mass that hopefully inspires spiritual involvement, connection and prayer.”

With his latest work dedicated to Saint Joseph and in celebration of his year, it is clear that the foster-father of Christ has had a great presence in Ric’s life.

“Ric struggled with being so far from family and turned to St Joseph for support and stability which was realised within his local parish community.”

The father of two daughters, Ric was moved greatly by Pope Francis’ Patris Corde, the Holy Father’s apostolic letter for the Year of St Joseph.

“One of the deepest and most meaningful experiences in my life is being a father to my two daughters Matilda and Charlotte,” he said.

Ric Mills struggled with being so far from family and turned to St Joseph for support and stability which was realised within his local parish community. Photo: Mathew De Sousa
Ric Mills struggled with being so far from family and turned to St Joseph for support and stability which was realised within his local parish community. Photo: Mathew De Sousa

“I feel this bond with my children, one that only a father’s heart can feel so the words of Pope Francis’ Patris Corde really holds the essence of the way I feel for my children.

“His letter begins ‘With a Father’s heart … that is how Joseph loved Jesus’, and that is the core message in the music of this Mass.”

The Mass of St Joseph is not only the culmination of a decade-long dream, but a gift offered to the Church in thanksgiving.

“St Joseph’s has really become a very full and blossoming church and I wanted to thank the Somascan Fathers for making this a sacred and alive space of communion with God.”

It honours a parish community whose support has been instrumental in the fulfillment of Ric’s faith and family life.

Arriving in Australia in 2005, Ric left behind his family and friends in England to be with his wife Priscille.

Ric struggled with being so far from family and turned to St Joseph for support and stability which was realised within his local parish community.

“I came [to St Joseph’s Moorebank] to pray and worship for a few years before Sr Anne asked me to play at a Mass with Fr Graham,” he said.

Ric Mills' work expresses thankfulness as well as a deep love for St Joseph's Moorebank and their work. Photo: Mathew De Sousa
Ric Mills’ work expresses thankfulness as well as a deep love for St Joseph’s Moorebank and their work. Photo: Mathew De Sousa

“Since then St Joseph’s has supported me spiritually in ways I cannot express in words.

“St Joseph’s has really become a very full and blossoming church and I wanted to thank the Somascan Fathers for making this a sacred and alive space of communion with God.

“I feel this work expresses thankfulness as well as a deep love for the church and their work.

“I wanted to create a piece of work that would be inspiring but also accessible to the average parish so it could be used as far and as wide as possible.”

Ric has since sent copies of his Mass to various publishers with the hope of getting it distributed and printed so it can be used in churches across Australia and the world.

A sample of the Lord have Mercy, sung by Moorebank parishioner Robert Ianni, can be found at www.youtube.com/watch?v=QRxYD398aO4

For those parishes who are interested in using the Mass they can make contact directly at [email protected]

Ric spends half of his time composing music and the rest of my time managing his music academy (Octave8) in Moorebank and the surrounding area.

If you are looking to learn to play from beginner level or are in need of advanced coaching in your chosen instrument, you can find out more on the Octave8 website at www.octave8.com.au