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Theology Professor Wins National Award for Contributions in Pastoral Liturgy

Judith M. Kubicki, C.S.S.F., Ph.D., associate professor of theology, was honored with the 2019 Jubilate Deo Award by the National Association of Pastoral Musicians in July. 

“I was deeply moved and honored to receive this award,” said Sister Kubicki, who has been teaching at Fordham for nearly two decades. “It is the highest award the association gives, and it is given to somebody who has made significant contributions to the liturgical life of Catholics in the United States.” 

Her lifelong love of music began when she was a little girl in Buffalo, New York. She sang in her grammar school and high school choirs. She learned how to play the piano from her mother, and then, years later, earned a bachelor’s degree in music from Daemen College in Amherst, New York. When she joined the Felician Sisters of North America, she learned how to play the organ from one of the sisters in her order. 

As religion became more central to her life, so did liturgical music. 

“My love for music eventually led me to the love of liturgical music,” said Sister Kubicki. “As I’ve said and explored in my own research, music is an integral part of worship. And so the worship of the church is best expressed when it includes music.” 

In 2001, she joined Fordham’s faculty in the theology department. She specializes in the liturgy, sacraments, and liturgical music. Over the years, she has created and taught several courses, including Great Christian Hymns. 

“On the undergraduate level, my favorite course—or perhaps my signature course—is Great Christian Hymns. It combines text, music, and history, and does all of this to discover the theology embedded in the singing of hymn texts,” she said. 

The third class of the semester-long course takes place in the University Church. At first, Sister Kubicki plays five familiar hymns for the students—songs like “Amazing Grace,” “Joy to the World,” and “Were You There.” Then she and her students head to the little chapel downstairs, a carpeted space with a low ceiling and none of the reverb from the main church space. 

“I play the same tunes. They again watch from the hymnal. They don’t sing—they just listen and absorb the whole thing. And then we talk about the difference in the space: the effect of the space on the receiving of the meaning of the hymns, the theology of the hymns,” Sister Kubicki explained. “That really gets us started in the course with a very good basis for talking about the experience of hymns in worship.” 

Outside of Fordham, Sister Kubicki has left a legacy on the liturgical studies community. She has served as president of multiple organizations, including the North American Academy of Liturgy, and published several books and papers. She earned her master’s degree in English at Canisius College and her master’s and doctoral degrees from the Catholic University of America. 

“What I hope to promote is an understanding of how integral music is to liturgy … it is so significant in aiding in the celebration of worship [and]in the singing of our prayer,” said Sister Kubicki. “Once you understand its significance and its importance, then the next step is to try to do it—have it done as best as it can be done—so as to promote the prayer of the people.” 


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