Vol. XX, No.7
Helen Hull Hitchcock — Obituary and Funeral
©Rachel Bender 2014
Helen Hull Hitchcock
August 19, 1939 – October 20, 2014
photo © 2014 – Sam Fentress
In paradísum dedúcant te ángeli: in tuo advéntu
suscípiant te mártyres, et perdúcant te in
civitátem sanctam Ierúsalem.
Chorus angelórum te suscípiat, et cum Lázaro
quondam páupere aetérnam hábeas réquiem.
May the angels lead you into Paradise;
May the martyrs receive you at your coming and lead you to the holy city of Jerusalem.
May a choir of angels receive you,
and with Lazarus, who once was poor, may you have eternal rest.
Helen Hull Hitchcock, founder and president of Adoremus-Society for the Renewal of the Sacred Liturgy and editor of the Adoremus Bulletin, died suddenly October 20, 2014, fortified by the sacraments of Holy Mother Church.
Her funeral was at St. Roch’s Church in St. Louis, which she had attended with her husband for 47 years, since long before she entered the Catholic Church. She was buried in Calvary Cemetery, a historic burial ground that includes the graves of Dred Scott and General William Tecumseh Sherman, among many others.
St. Roch’s is a Flemish gothic-style building (1922) that has retained its statues and marble altar rail. The funeral was according to the Novus Ordo in English, celebrated by the Most Reverend Robert L. Hermann, retired auxiliary bishop of St. Louis, with twelve concelebrants and an Antiochian Orthodox priest in the congregation. The service at the grave was conducted by Helen’s pastor, Monsignor Sal- vatore E. Polizzi.
Helen had made clear that she wanted no eulogy. The homily was given by Father James Swetnam, SJ, retired professor at the Pontifical Biblical Institute in Rome; readings were by Father Joseph Fessio, SJ, of Ignatius Press and the Adoremus executive committee; and poet-monk Father Ralph Wright, OSB, of the St. Louis Abbey.
The service incorporated some of Helen’s favorite hymns — “O God Our Help in Ages Past” (Offertory), “Hail Thee Festival Day” (Communion), and “For All the Saints” (recessional). But most of the Gregorian Requiem was also sung — the Subvenite as the clergy came to meet the funeral party at the door of the church, Requiem Aeternam as the entrance antiphon, the Sanctus, the Agnus Dei, Lux Aeterna as the Communion antiphon, and In Paradisum at the door of the church at the end of the service. The music was under the direction of Dr. Horst Buchholz, music director of the Cathedral Basilica of St. Louis.
Helen was born in Phillipsburg, Kansas, August 19, 1939, the daughter of Downer Lee Hull and Thelma Kelly Hull. Her father was a school superintendent, and the family lived in several small Kansas towns. She attended high school in Woodston, Kansas, where the family also farmed, and graduated from the University of Kansas. She had been raised a Methodist, became an Episcopalian, was active briefly in the Anglican Catholic Church, and became a Roman Catholic in 1984.
Early on she became interested in religious issues and was a founder of Women for Faith & Family as well as of Adoremus. She edited the WFF journal Voices and two books — The Politics of Prayer and the Adoremus Hymnal. She published widely.
Her work attracted a good deal of national and international attention. She met Pope Saint John Paul II several times and also met Saint Teresa of Calcutta and the future Pope Benedict XVI. Messages of condolence were received from half a dozen cardinals and numerous bishops, as well as priests, sisters, and lay people who had been inspired by her work.
She was married for 47 years to the historian James Hitchcock and was the mother of Alexandra Kassing, Consuelo Hitchcock, Hilary Hitchcock, and Louisa Spampinato, and the grandmother of six.