09 Mar Love and Marriage, Babies and Missals
Deep in the Heart of Texas
by Roseanne T. Sullivan
Images courtesy of Corpus Christi Watershed
Ama, ora, et labora (love, pray, and work). It’s what they do. Jeff and Cynthia Ostrowki, barely in their thirties, work closely and creatively together at Corpus Christi Watershed (CCW), a nonprofit founded in late 2006 in response to Pope John Paul II’s 1999 “Letter to Artists,” to foster renewal of Catholic arts.
Reviewers agree that the Ostrowskis’ collaboration, both with one another and with the volunteers who work with them at CCW has produced some of the most intelligently and beautifully designed liturgical works to be found anywhere.
“The St. Edmund Campion Missal and Hymnal for the Traditional Latin Mass is a wonderment. [T]he typesetting is beautiful and the layout is great . . . . Everyone interested in Sacred Liturgy should have a copy,” wrote church musician and “Music for Sunday” blogger Adam Wood on the Chant Café Web site (Sept. 12, 2013).
The couple works closely as a team: For the first edition of the St. Edmund Campion Missal, Jeff served as editor, and Cynthia as designer. Jeff’s sister, Kristen Ostrowski, scanned and electronically enhanced some 300 pieces of line art from traditional sources, from which Jeff and Cynthia selected seventy-five to illustrate the missal. The Ostrowskis took their toddler daughter along with them to Europe, where Cynthia took photos of priests from the Priestly Fraternity of St. Peter (FSSP) wearing antique vestments and celebrating Mass at stunningly beautiful churches.
How They Met
It may be a wonder they ever met. Jeff’s parents are of Irish and Polish descent. They met in Chicago, and then moved to Kansas, where Jeff grew up. Cynthia’s parents are Filipino, and because she came from a military family, she grew up all over the world, including the Philippines.
Jeff said, “I lived in Kansas all my life until I got sick of doing graduate studies in musicology (because of all the silly ‘gender’ musicology nonsense) there.”
Cynthia’s family was living in Corpus Christi, Texas, where Cynthia (then Calamug) was working as a geographic information science analyst, when Jeff moved there in 2005 to work as a church musician. Jeff soon became friends with Timothy O’Brien, who shared Jeff’s interests in traditional Catholicism and in the Latin Mass. Tim is married to Cynthia’s identical twin sister, Christine, and Jeff met Cynthia for the first time when the O’Briens invited him for dinner.
Jeff was too shy to talk much to Cynthia that night, but as time progressed they became friends. They fell in love and then married two years later. Today, they are parents of a three-year-old daughter and a one-year-old son.
How They Married
Everything about Jeff’s and Cynthia’s wedding on April 14, 2007, reflected their love for beautifully celebrated traditional liturgy and sacred music. Their wedding Mass was in Immaculate Conception Chapel at John Paul II High School in Corpus Christi, where Jeff was teaching at the time. It was the first Solemn Pontifical Nuptial Mass with Deacon and Subdeacon celebrated in the Extraordinary Form anywhere since the reforms after the Second Vatican Council.
Both the couple and their families and friends put in lot of work to prepare for the traditional Mass. Jeff’s mother drew illustrations for a booklet to help the congregation follow the ceremonies. Jeff built a high altar, so that the Mass could be celebrated ad orientem. Jeff also built the liturgical lanterns the altar servers carried.
Jeff and Cynthia were honored to have the Most Reverend René H. Gracida, Bishop Emeritus of Corpus Christi and Laredo as celebrant. Jeff said, “I knew of his reputation as a warrior for pro-life causes, and His Grace had ordained a friend of mine to the priesthood in the Traditional Rite.” Jeff said he believes the bishop agreed to do the wedding because he loves the Traditional Mass and sacred music.
“We sent him a letter and asked His Excellency really, really, really nicely and he said yes,” Jeff said.
The couple felt thrilled to be able to borrow a one-of-a kind gold chalice designed and fabricated by Fr. James Fryar, FSSP, who also assisted at the solemn high Mass with two other priests. The chalice is featured in the Campion Missal.
And the music! Two choirs sang at their wedding: A Schola Cantorum of nineteen men sang the Propers in Gregorian chant, and a special polyphonic schola of fifty singers sang the polyphonic Missa Quis Non Amantem by Josquin Desprez (†1521), as well as motets from Morales, Lassus, and others masters. Quis Non Amántem Redamet (“Who Would Not Love in Return”) is available from Amazon.
Jeff is a professional musician so he knows how to find singers. He described the singers as “coming from all over,” and including students, friends, colleagues, local college students, members of home-schooled families, and family members and their friends.
Several church musicians flew to Texas to assist, including guest conductor Louis Tappan, and Jeffrey Tucker and Arlene Oost-Zimmer from the Church Music Association of America (CMAA). Jeff and the CCW have worked with the CMAA on many projects, including a video documentary of the Sacred Music Colloquium XIX, “Sacred, Beautiful & Universal,” which often is played on EWTN.
Making ‘holy music of resplendent beauty'
Jeff explained that their wedding Mass is proof that even the very young and those unfamiliar with traditional Catholic music can produce “holy music of resplendent beauty.”
“Nonspecialists can produce great, appropriate, holy music at Mass if somebody takes the time to teach them,” he said. “More than thirty of the polyphonic singers were younger than 25, and some of the most crucial members were ages under age 10. Some of the music was very complex: For instance, one of the pieces consisted of a double Canon set over a Cantus Firmus in the bass by the polyphonic master, Cristóbal de Morales (†1553).”
“On that day, time seemed to stop — such a beautiful ceremony neither the bride nor groom will ever forget,” Jeff said.
“ It would be impossible to encapsulate all my thoughts on such an emotional day, but what stood out most was the prayerful and solemn nature of our wedding Mass,” Cynthia agreed.
Two days after the wedding, Jeff had to dismantle the altar and return the chapel to the school’s preferred post-Vatican II layout. But the memories and echoes from that glorious ceremony linger on.