Leo Cornelius Nestor, professor emeritus of choral and sacred music at The Catholic University of America and former music director at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception, died Sept. 22, 2019. A funeral Mass was celebrated for Nestor Oct. 28 in the Crypt Church at the national shrine. (CNS photo/Tony Fiorini, The Catholic University of America)
Leo Cornelius Nestor, professor emeritus of choral and sacred music at The Catholic University of America and former music director at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception, died Sept. 22, 2019. A funeral Mass was celebrated for Nestor Oct. 28 in the Crypt Church at the national shrine. (CNS photo/Tony Fiorini, The Catholic University of America)
WASHINGTON (CNS) — A funeral Mass was celebrated Oct. 28 for Leo Cornelius Nestor, professor emeritus of sacred music at The Catholic University of America and former director of music director at Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington.

The conductor, composer and teacher, whose accomplishments as a church musician are considered unparalleled in the U.S. Catholic Church, died Sept. 22. He was 70.

A special choir, comprised of former students, current and former members of the national shrine's choir provided the music for the funeral celebrated in the shrine's Crypt Church.

Msgr. Godfrey Mosley was the principal celebrant, and Conventual Franciscan Father Jude DeAngelo was the homilist. Concelebrants included Msgr. Walter R. Rossi, rector of the national shrine, and priests from the Washington Archdiocese and The Catholic University of America.

Before his retirement from Catholic University in 2016, Nestor had served as the Justine Bayard Ward professor of music, director of choral studies, director of the Institute of Sacred Music, a member of the conducting faculty and co-operating member of the composition faculty.

Prior to going to the university in 2001, Nestor was the director of music at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception for 17 years. During a 2008 sabbatical, he served as composer-in-residence at the Cathedral of the Madeleine in Salt Lake City.

He composed music for four papal visits to the U.S., and he was on the drafting committee for the U.S. bishops' 2007 document "Sing to the Lord: Music in Divine Worship."

Since 1990, Nestor's works have been published principally by E.C. Schirmer Music, with works appearing in the catalog of Oxford University Press, GIA Publications, MorningStar Music Publishers, CanticaNOVA Publications, OCP (Oregon Catholic Press) and Selah Publishing House.

Nestor was among the four founding members of the Conference of Roman Catholic Cathedral Musicians, formed in 1984. He served as adviser to the organization in 1996.

As founder, conductor and artistic director of the American Repertory Singers, a professional vocal ensemble specializing in the performance and recording of contemporary literatures, Nestor produced eight recordings on Arsis Audio, notably "Come to Me: Love Songs by American Composers," along with many seasons of new-issue recordings for E.C. Schirmer Music.

He served the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops as musical adviser to the Secretariat for Divine Worship. He taught at Mount St. Mary's College in Los Angeles and was professor of graduate conducting at St. John's University in Collegeville, Minnesota.

From 1991-1998 he served as artistic adviser, member of the international jury, Comitato d'Onore, and conductor of the Coro Internazionale for L'Associazione Internazionale Amici della Musica Sacra in Rome.

Nestor had a bachelor of arts degree in music composition from California State University in East Bay, a master of music degree in choral music from the University of Southern California, and a doctor of musical arts degree in choral music, also from USC.

In recognition of his lifetime of musical service to the Catholic church, he was named a papal knight by Pope Francis. The honor was bestowed upon him in 2016 when he was inducted as a Knight of the Pontifical Equestrian Order of St. Gregory the Great.

He is survived by his elder sister, Connie, and her two children. He had asked that in lieu of flowers he wished donations to be made to the Little Sisters of the Poor, who cared for Leo and Connie's sister, Patricia, in her final months.

Numerous tributes to Nestor are posted on the PrayTellBlog.com, a joint venture of Liturgical Press and St. John's School of Theology and Seminary in Collegeville.

In one, Michael Silhavy, who currently serves as music director at St. Mary Church in Riverside, Illinois, called Nestor "an amazing man" and a close friend. When Silhavy moved to Washington in 1999, he said, he was assigned to the national shrine, when Nestor was music director there.

"He gave the angels their voice in that sacred space, and elevated every worship service to a profound sense of the divine," Silhavy wrote. "The voices he directed made you feel the Holy Spirit move so deeply through you that the experience restored health to your soul and joy to your heart."