New NPM President: Rick Hilgartner

The National Association of Pastoral Musicians (NPM), the largest organization of U.S. Catholic church musicians, is very pleased to announce the appointment of Msgr. Rick Hilgartner as its new president. Ann Ketzer, chairperson of the NPM Board of Directors, sent an email to the NPM membership this morning announcing the appointment.

As president and CEO of NPM, Hilgartner will work with the entire NPM staff, including the person in the newly configured position of Chief Operations Officer. Hilgartner will serve part-time in this new capacity, along with pastoral duties in a parish in his home diocese of Baltimore. He will begin at NPM on September 1

Msgr. Hilgartner, 44, has been director of the U.S. Bishops’ Secretariat for Divine Worship the past three years. Before that, he was associate director in the national liturgy office. In the Baltimore Archdiocese, Father Hilgartner has served in parish ministry and campus ministry, and has taught theology and homiletics. He has been a frequent presenter at annual conventions of NPM.

Msgr. Hilgartner is currently enrolled in a doctoral program at The Catholic University of America and holds a license in Sacred Theology (Sacramental and Liturgical Theology) from the Pontificio Ateneo Sant’ Anselmo, Rome. In addition, he holds a Bachelor of Science degree (business and finance) from Mount St. Mary’s College (now University) in Emmitsburg, Maryland, and a Master of Divinity degree and Bachelor of Sacred Theology degree from St. Mary’s Seminary and University, Baltimore. He is a member of the North American Academy of Liturgy.

Asked about his vision for NPM, Hilgartner said,

The Church in the United States continues to grow more diverse, not only in terms of culture and language but also in regard to models of Church and models of worship. The future of NPM will depend on its ability to serve the Church in these contexts and to form, encourage, and support the next generation of pastoral musicians in their commitment to serve the Church and the Liturgy.

NPM is holding its 37th national convention in St. Louis this coming July 13-18. “Proclaim Good News.” Over 2,000 are expected to be in attendance. Pray Tell will once again be broadcasting live from NPM.


  1. Blessings on Msgr. Hilgartner and on the National Association of Pastoral Musicians! May the organization continue to serve the needs of the Church at prayer blessed by his wise leadership.

  2. This is excellent news. Rick will do a great job!

    In fact the email to the membership has not gone out at this point (or if it has, has not yet been received by all members, including me — but I had already heard about it on the grapevine yesterday). I am sure they will be relieved and delighted at the news. Still nothing about it on the NPM website, though.

  3. Not sure if PrayTell allows “Amen” posts, but I’d echo all the positive response to this announcement that I’ve read & heard in several places.
    St. Cecilia, pray for us!

  4. Congratulations to Msgr. Hilgartner. May NPM continue to thrive under his leadership and provide the guidance and resources needed by pastoral musicians everywhere!

  5. Update: The NPM email to the membership has just come through. Nothing on the NPM website yet, though. And Whispers in the Loggia is also carrying the news. Much rejoicing all around!

      1. @Linda Reid – comment #7:
        Linda, you may have addressed him that way, but there seems to be a general trend among those on this blog as well as others (it took me years to find out Fr. Chepponis was a priest, not to pick on him, he’s not the only one) to avoid referring to priests as priests. Point in case, “editor” may or may not be a personal friend of Msgr. H, but the title of this blog post is an article title, not an email. At best, it’s confusing, and at worst, it’s s troubling tendency toward downplaying the importance of holy orders and the ministerial priesthood.

        @Jan Larson – comment 8:

        And saying “Msgr. Rick” isn’t using his baptismal name?

  6. I am delighted with the appointment of Msgr Richard Hilgartner (also known as Rick to his friends) and pray that he will continue to receive the support and affirmation of the musicians and clergy NPM is called upon to serve.
    There is more to do at NPM than what has already been done. May we all take up the challenges!

  7. Usually Lord Jesus, or something similar… Because that’s who He is. Just as a priest is a priest and a bishop is a bishop, which is why you address them by their titles.

  8. Hey, Father Ben, if being addressed by one’s title is such a big deal why does your pic sport a shirt and (bow) tie? For that matter, why does your name not appear with a “Fr.” in front of it as does mine? The only reason I identify myself by the title is so that readers may know that my comments are from the perspective of priestly ministry. Lighten up, dude. Excuse me, “Father dude”.

  9. From Ben: “…and at worst, it’s s troubling tendency toward downplaying the importance of holy orders and the ministerial priesthood.”

    What sort of “prefix” we use is not what either uplifts or downplays anything… my sense is that it is up to the individual. If, in this case, Rick (excuse me, Msgr. Hilgartner) is OK with being named by his first name – that is what matters.

    Secondly – the laity, the baptized should not be underplayed as well – so I think from this point forward, I should be called “Mr. David” or “Mr. Haas” by my colleagues and friends. Now, of course this is silly.. yes? So as Gregg previously suggested… a glass of wine would do well. In my case, it would be a coke or an Orange Crush.

  10. I don’t know, maybe if I had to call Ben “Mr. Yanke,” I would be less inclined to hurl random invective and bizarrely inappropriate threats in his direction.


    Nope, didn’t stop me.

    Young Mr. Yanke is attempting to raise our general discourse from the informal to the courteous. I don’t think he deserves to be insulted for this.


  11. Also, I can’t believe how many people are suggesting a glass of wine to someone UNDERAGE! Haven’t you all been to your diocesan Safe Environment training?!?!

  12. “Young Mr. Yanke is attempting to raise our general discourse from the informal to the courteous. I don’t think he deserves to be insulted for this.”


    1. @Ben Yanke – comment #21:
      Titles hold great importance in cultures that value courtesy, but not only that. Titles also reinforce the hierarchical nature of human associations.

      There is a movement in places, including in mainstream Catholicism, toward a more informal style. And more, there is a sense of the virtue in breaking down barriers among believers, including class differences.

      I know a lay professor who will respect clergy who insist on being referred to by their titles. She, in turn, requests that the relationship remain formal, and that they refer to her as “Doctor” or “Professor.”

      Now, there are those who know Msgr Hilgartner and refer to him publicly as “Rick.” I’m with Linda Reid on this. I don’t know the man. I will refer to him as “Msgr,” unless and until I meet the man. And if we become friends, I will take my cue and address him as he wishes to be addressed. And when he is absent and I am referring to him I will likely use his title and last name, a professional courtesy.

      I employ the same practice among and with most priests I know. Personally, friend to friend, I am on a first-name basis with many of them. When I share a conversation outside of a circle of friends (such as with parishioners) it is Fr (first name) for those who know him, and Fr (last name) for those who don’t.

      Online, I have been called all sorts of things. And more, if one includes under-the-breath utterances. I try to hew to the courtesy expected of me and refer to others likewise. I do think it is a breach of courtesy (though a common one) to refer to people, especially people we do not like, by their last name only. That sort of insult is actually rare on Ben’s regular sites, NLM and the Chant Cafe–kudos to them for that.

      But it is a marker of disrespect to refer to disliked persons by their last names only. And that is a greater insult, in my perception, than calling a priest by his first name.

      So let’s be informal, as we wish, courteous, and consistent.

  13. Mr. Flowerday (jes’ kiddin’) —

    Where I come from, men do refer to each other by their last names. It’s far from an insult. So that’s a regional thing, or maybe a French thing (I”m in New Orleans).

    I was also taught to call people by the form that they prefer. What to do when you don’t know what they like? I say err on the side of formality. At least for my generation formality was a mark of respect, not stuffiness. Only a friend or family would call you by your first name or nickname. Of course, in my family we didn’t even follow those rules. My brother and I called my father by his nick-name, and most of the grand-aunts and uncles were also called by nick-names, and we didn’t address adults as “sir” and “ma’m” the way the rest of the South does.

    I say, go with what your best guess is that the person prefers.

    1. @Ben Yanke – comment #24:
      I think I’ll stand in disagreement, especially given the tenor of the blogosphere, and to note the tone of insult in many locations. Using titles across the board may well be a positive movement to counter certain ugly tendencies in us.

      I also knew a family transplanted from Louisiana. It took me awhile to get used to the children addressing me as “Mr Todd.” But if I went back to the south, I would rather enjoy it, I think.

      My recollection of academia from the late 70’s: I had a professor (Ecology) who considered his students–undergrads–as colleagues in the search for knowledge and preferred to be on a first name basis. Another prof (English) insisted on Doctor or Professor for himself, and always addressed us as Mr or Ms. Both men were unfailingly polite, generous, and demanding. Courtesy and respect are communicated more by the interior orientation to another than the exterior trappings.

      But it is illustrative to note the pattern of insistence and defense on the topic. How many priests here insist on Father compared to laity? How many lay people resist formality for their own class but advocate it for others? That tells us a good bit.

      Back to topic, congrats to Msgr Hilgartner. May your name be spelled correctly, even when people disagree with you.

  14. Just to inject a note of levity in our discussion of the use of honorifics in blog postings, one of my sisters threatened some years ago to have her (then) young children address me as “Uncle Doctor Father Mike.” Fortunately we thought that would be not only too cumbersome, but too confusing.

  15. 1. #11 from Gregg Smith expresses my sentiments and I don’t think it insults Ben.
    2. #10: Ben says he discerns “a troubling tendency toward downplaying the importance of holy orders and the ministerial priesthood” in calling clergy by their Christian names or their nicknames. I do not find that familiarity with our priests diminishes my appreciation for their charism of orders. Instead it impresses me with what God fashions from ordinary materials.
    Perhaps Ben may agree with me after that glass of wine. For now, I think that, as some say in Maine, that’s where him and me differs.
    3. #15: I like Ben’s “Monsignor Jesus.” We knew Jesus was in solidarity with the clean of heart and the poor in spirit, and now we affirm that he’s in solidarity with monsignors. I think he is, although sometimes they can make us wonder.
    4. I can remember when it was inconceivable that “Monsignor” and “Rick” could be used together to denote the same person. Times change, fortunately.

  16. “I do not find that familiarity with our priests diminishes my appreciation for their charism of orders”

    Why not both? I am quite close to several priests, and I simply call them Father FirstName.

    1. @Ben Yanke – comment #28:
      Indeed, why not both? I use a title in professional circles and, when they approve, first name in friendly circles. If/when you are ordained, you can be called as you wish.

      Honestly, it’s been a dead issue for decades. The only erosion of the sense of priesthood has come from the actions of individual clergy, not how they are addressed. It’s a different world, and a different Church from sixty years ago. That’s not only inevitable, but it’s largely good.

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