BY Ryan McDougall | April 26 | comments icon 0 COMMENTS     print icon print

Presentation to Mr Noel Donnelly asKnight of St Gregory by Pope Francis, Palm Sunday 14th April 2019 at St Leo the Great.Noel with Mgr Gerry Fitzpatrick.Photo by and copyright of Paul Mc Sherry 07770 393960 @Paulmcsherry2

Musician who composed music for papal visits is made a Knight of St Gregory

An 87-year-old man who helped compose music for the visits to Scotland of both Pope Benedict XVI and St Pope John Paul II has spoken of his ‘shock’ after being presented the Knight of St Gregory award for his services to the Church

Noel Donnelly, who is the composer behind many pieces of music used by the Catholic Church in Scotland and beyond, joked that he was ‘still recovering from the embarrassment and shock’ of receiving the unexpected award.

“I really wasn’t expecting it. I kept thinking there must have been a mistake somewhere in the Vatican offices,” Mr Donnelly laughed.


A joy for the parish

He received his certificate on Palm Sunday at St Leo the Great Church in Glasgow Archdiocese to the joy of the parishioners and parish priest Mgr Gerry Fitzpatrick.

Mr Donnelly’s works include creating music for the two most recent papal visits to the UK and the composition of 70 pieces of religious music still used in the archdiocese.

He specialises in Psalms written in melody style.

“I’ve got three big things in my life,” he said. “Family, of course, then music and sacred scripture which is most important to me.”


A rare award

The Knights of St Gregory award is given in recognition of various services to the Church. It was established in 1891 by St Pope Gregory XI.

In his earlier career, Mr Donnelly was a teacher in secondary schools and later become a senior lecturer in biblical studies in Craiglockhart and St Andrew’s Colleges.

He also taught adult religious education in various countries, focussing on Catechist formation.

Mr Donnelly said he knows of just one other person in Scotland who has received the St Gregory Award.

“I’m delighted to have this rare award,” he said.


Never truly retired

He added that he plans to keep on making music for as long as he can, saying: “I’m in my 87th year, but I’ve found you never really retire—there’s always something to do. The next thing I’ve got going ahead will be to do with the training of deacons in Kinnoull.

“My friends keep joking with me about the award, saying things like, ‘When are you getting a horse?’ because of the knight connection,” he laughed.



Parish priest Mgr Gerry Fitzpatrick said Mr Donnelly’s new knighthood to St Gregory is a ‘very fitting appointment’ due to a hymn he wrote in 2004 to mark the saint’s 14th centenary.

Mgr Fitzpatrick added that the new knight’s ‘contribution to the life of the Church in Scotland is so immense,’ citing Mr Donnelly’s teacher training and ecumenical work.

Mgr Fitzpatrick also mentioned his contribution to Christian radio station, as well as his choir work and beyond. “The list is endless,” he said.

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