Aquinas Institute of Theology in October will honor a man and woman who have devoted more than a combined 100 years to serving the Catholic Church.
Msgr. William A. Drennan, retired priest in residence at St. Alban Roe Church in Wildwood, will receive Aquinas Institute’s 2005 Great Preacher Award. Marie Kremer, Ph.D., recently retired music director at St. Monica Church in Creve Coeur, will receive the Catherine of Siena Excellence in Ministry Award.
The Great Preacher Award, which began in 1995, honors a priest who has strengthened the Catholic community and transformed lives through powerful preaching. The Catherine of Siena Award, in its third year, celebrates a lay person who possesses extraordinary gifts for ministry. The event begins with evening prayer at 5:30 p.m. Tuesday, Oct. 25, at St. Francis Xavier Church at Grand and Lindell boulevards. A reception and awards ceremony follow at the recently restored Ballroom at the Coronado Hotel on Lindell.
“Msgr. Drennan and Dr. Kremer began their ministries before Vatican II,” said Fr. Charles Bouchard, O.P., president of Aquinas Institute. “Through his preaching and her music ministry, they led Catholics through the transition of a Latin Mass to Mass in English. Their work evolved with the Church in a fashion that has enriched the spiritual lives of hundreds, probably even thousands, of St. Louis Catholics.”
Drennan was ordained in 1955 and became associate pastor at St. Edward Church in St. Louis. He served at the Cathedral Basilica, Barnes Hospital, and Our Lady of Lourdes in University City before being named pastor at Ascension Church in Chesterfield in 1972. He served there until 1988, when he was assigned as pastor to St. Raphael Church in South St. Louis. He retired from St. Raphael earlier this year.
Drennan’s parishioners describe his preaching as succinct, relevant and gently spoken. “None (of his homilies) has been boring. None was unprepared,” wrote William H. Erker, a parishioner at Our Lady of Lourdes, in his nominating letter. “Rather, they are inspiringly thoughtful, clearly instructive, genuinely kind, encouragingly happy … each one gently nudging us to be more Christ-like.”
The pastor’s Sunday homilies consistently contain three points, which he says is the perfect number. There is the Trinity, after all, and faith, hope and love.
Drennan prepares for homilies by reading Scripture interpretations – one each day. “I collect a lot of thoughts, and I let them percolate,” he said. “There’s no pressure. It’s a spiritual thing.”
Over the years, he’s become more relaxed at the pulpit and gained a greater appreciation for responses from the pews. Parishioners’ expressions tell him when he’s connected with them, and it rewards him.
“At my retirement Mass, during my homily, I said that when I was ordained, I thought ministry was a one-way street,” he said. “I thought I was studying to help others walk the path to heaven. Then I met the people. In this ministry, I receive as much as I give.” And that point, Drennan said, was the first of three he made.
Kremer’s familiarity with music as ministry began at about the same time she learned to ride a bike. Her father was music director at Holy Trinity Church in North St. Louis. He moved in the 1920s to St. Louis from Germany, where he’d studied at the church music school in Regensburg. The Kremer children often helped their dad at Holy Trinity.
She earned a Ph.D. in music from Washington University. Kremer also studied organ at Cornell University and was named a Fulbright Scholar in 1964. During that year, she studied organ at the Academy of Music in Vienna, Austria, with renowned organist Anton Heiller.
While Kremer studied, she directed music at parishes in St. Louis. Among them were Holy Trinity, St. Liborius, Holy Cross, All Saints and Our Lady of Providence. She counts among her greatest influences Msgr. Martin Hellriegel from Holy Cross, who so often recited that “active participation in the sacred mysteries is the source and summit of Christian life,” that his parishioners memorized the words.
In 1985, with her formal studies a decade behind her, Kremer became music director at St. Monica Church. She directed the parish’s adult choir, high school choir, children’s choir, handbell choir, cantors and other instrumentalists. She also taught at St. Monica School.
At a retirement tribute to Kremer, a student wrote: “Dr. Kremer has let me play piano at Mass as a prelude a couple of times. At first I thought it was pretty scary, but then I realized I wasn’t doing it to impress my friends, I was doing it to worship the Lord.”
Kremer’s student captured what the director said is at the heart of her ministry. “A musician in a real sense preaches the Gospel,” she said. “The Eucharist is the most important fundamental thing we do as Catholics, and our participation in that celebration is vital. Music is prayer. Music supports the assembly and draws them into the liturgy.”
Her 52-year career in music ministry earned her the distinction of being named the 2005 Pastoral Musician of the Year from the National Association of Pastoral Musicians, an organization that is 10,000 members strong.
Since her retirement, Kremer has returned to her neighborhood parish, Holy Trinity. “For now,” she said, “I’m going to sing in the congregation.”
For tickets to the awards presentation and reception, call 314.977.7292, or email firstname.lastname@example.org.