Robert McCaffery-Lent

Pastoral Assistant for Music & Liturgy

Bob McCaffery-Lent was born in the Bronx and grew up in New York City the eldest son of Alfred and Alice Lent. He has two brothers and a sister, all of whom still live in NYC. A true city boy, his family always lived in apartments and never owned a car. He attended both Catholic schools and public schools and developed his basketball jump-shot and learned many lessons about life and on the playgrounds and schoolyards as well as traveling throughout the city on the subway from the age of 12.

His long connection with the Jesuits began at the age of 13 when his 8th grade teacher at Our Lady Of Mercy suggest he take the test for Regis High School, a Jesuit high school in Manhattan endowed for boys since the early 1900s. He was accepted and traveled the #4 train from the Bronx to Regis for four years where he studied Latin, French and the rest of classic Jesuit college prep academia, played for the basketball team and was a fixture behind the scenes for the Regis Dramatic Society.

A turning point came at the end of his junior year when, inspired by a classmate who was an amazing musician, he bought his first guitar. He had been teaching himself piano for a couple of years already on the shoddy piano in the school auditorium but he took up the guitar with a zeal that made it easy to practice three hours a day for years on end. He had begun the process of falling in love with music.

Bob continued his Jesuit connections (and urban living!) by attending the University of Detroit and studying civil engineering. He had always loved the bridges in New York City, studying them, researching their history and drawing and painting pictures of the most interesting ones. So life as a civil engineer had some appeal and made some sense. Another turning point, though, came when he decided to actually take a music class at Marygrove College, just down the road. In between classes on drafting, statics and Fortran , Bob squeezed in private classical guitar lessons, a semester in choir and some piano lessons. Bob was absolutely hooked. It wasn’t so much that he chose music…music chose him.

He changed his major from civil engineering to music and art, which didn’t exactly go over so well at home since he was the first in the family to go to college. Music came easily and was a source of tremendous joy and challenge. Bob also became part of the campus ministry team very early on, helping to provide music for the campus liturgies and participating in and then helping to lead student retreats.

Upon graduation Bob applied for and received a fellowship to work in Campus Ministry and do a master’s degree in religious studies. During this time Bob studied scripture, philosophy, ecclesiology and history while directing the liturgical music ministry as part of the campus ministry team and continuing to study guitar and voice at Marygrove and sing in their choir. Unbeknownst to Bob, the foundations were being laid for a future in church music ministry.

Upon graduation Bob joined the Jesuit Volunteer Corps and for two years taught social studies and art and music at an alternative Junior High School in Newark, NJ run by the Caldwell Dominican Sisters. Having had lots of education but absolutely no formal instruction in classroom education per se, this was an amazing and challenging two years to say the very least. At the end of this time Bob decided that the dream and pull of music was simply too potent and primal to simply abide as a hobby so he applied for and was accepted at the Cincinnati Conservatory of Music to study classical guitar with Clare Callahan, herself a student of Segovia.

During his time in Newark Bob met Eileen McCaffery, another Jesuit Volunteer from California who served in Montana with one of Bob’s best high school friends. They met at a wedding in Rochester, NY, wrote letters cross country for almost two years, saw each other for a few days while Bob was visiting his grandmother in San Francisco, and decided that they were meant to be together. And together they have been for going on 28 years now. Least expensive courtship ever…a whole bunch of stamps! Eileen is a wonderful schoolteacher in the Tacoma school district.

All during this time Bob was continuing to do liturgical music in parishes in Newark and Cincinnati. After studying in Cincinnati and deciding to marry, Bob moved to the Northwest to join Eileen who was now a parishioner at Saint Joseph and living in community with other former Jesuit Volunteers. This was another turning point. As much as he loved classical guitar Bob realized that he loved the world of liturgical music more…having the opportunity to work with ensembles and be in relationship with parish communities, to put his multi-instrumental abilities to work at the service of a greater good rather than being squirreled away in a practice room eight hours a day.

So, when he moved to the Northwest he applied for and was accepted as the Director of Music and Liturgy at the Jesuit parish in Tacoma, St. Leo. It was a great fit, Saint Leo being a very urban and folksy parish with a strong tradition of working for social justice. So his Jesuit connection continued and deepened. After 22 wonderful years at St. Leo Bob sensed that it was time for a change and that Saint Joseph was in need of someone to come and direct the music program and liturgy. He has served as Pastoral Assistant for Liturgy and Music here since 2008.

During his years in the northwest Bob continued to study music, earning a K-12 teaching certificate from PLU and studied liturgy and spirituality at Seattle U. Bob also sang with Choral Arts, a premier choir in the Seattle area, for 15 years. This choir is now in residence at Saint Joseph. He also was a founding member of a local Irish band, Slainte, now Mooncoyne and they continue to play the Saint Joseph Ceili. Bob has also been very involved in the National Association of Pastoral Musicians helping to found a local chapter and then serve as chapter director in Seattle for 6 years; as a member of the National Board of the Director of Music Ministries Division for 8 years and currently is communications chair for the NPM National Chapter Committee.