For the first time in more than two years, the School Sisters of St. Francis will open St. Joseph Chapel to the public to host a “Gathering on Holy Ground” concert.
The performance will take place Tuesday, Nov. 22, on the feast of St. Cecilia, the patron saint of music. The concert, featuring leading archdiocesan musicians, will begin at 7 p.m.
The concert is being organized by Sr. Mary Jane Wagner, the director of music ministry for the School Sisters of St. Francis and past musical director at the Cathedral of St. John the Evangelist and St. Mary Visitation Parish, Elm Grove.
“In spring 2021, we were looking forward to reopening the chapel by November 2021,” said Sr. Wagner. “That is when Sr. Bernadette Luecker and I invited these six published composers, all members of the Milwaukee Archdiocesan Liturgical Musicians Association, to meet and create a memorable event.”
The sisters invited Fr. Charlie Conley, Jeff Honoré, Steve Janco, Brian McLinden, Fr. Roc O’Connor, S.J., and David Sanders to plan an event that could help to heal, nourish and inspire souls.
However, because the pandemic returned that fall, they postponed the concert and reconvened the committee this past spring.
“We chose a slightly different focus,” Sr. Wagner said. “Each composer selected a psalm or a hymn that expresses our beliefs, our hopes, (and) our relationship with God, ourselves and others.”
Additionally, the concert includes four compositions commissioned by the School Sisters of St. Francis for the Centennial of St. Joseph Chapel in 2017. The text of the choral work, “This Holy Place,” was written by Sr. Irene Zimmerman, S.S.S.F.
The Chapel Singers will sing “This Holy Place,” along with a brass quartet, in the hymn “St. Joseph, Jesus’ Guardian Strong;” “How Lovely is Your Dwelling Place;” and the organ work, “Toccata: I Believe in One God,” based on Credo III. Sr. Wanger and Sr. Luecker will direct and accompany these selections.
“The talents of (these) six published composers of music for the liturgy from the Milwaukee archdiocese will be revealed through the beauty and diversity of their musical gifts,” said Sr. Wagner. “Each composer has chosen a hymn or a psalm setting of his creation to contribute to this concert. Some of the composers will perform their own work. Brian McLinden has organized a vocal ensemble to enhance the psalms and hymns. Instrumentalists and cantors will add to the splendor of these inspiring and comforting sounds.”
This is the first time the School Sisters of St. Francis have offered a concert of this nature, Sr. Wagner said.
“Perhaps the most apparent, yet subtle, way this will be experienced is this: between selections, Shawn Rochon, who plays the Native American flute, will offer improvisations that will help us sustain reflection and keep us open to the spirit, our guide and comforter,” she said. “It is amazing to me, and also a pure gift, to experience working together with these composers. They lead me to a profound experience of hope. They share most generously of their talents. They work congenially and with integrity. Each of us has been enriched.”
St. Joseph Chapel is a special spot to hold the event, a place consecrated to God for prayer and worship.
“It is a place of renewal of mind, heart and spirit,” said Sr. Wagner. “Fr. Charlie Conley has aptly described it as ‘a harbor of peace, an oasis of silence from the noise of the world, holy ground where God can be found, a place of prayer and reflection.’”
The event is free and open to the public; a free will offering will be accepted.
Gathering on Holy Ground
Tuesday, Nov. 22, 7 p.m.
1501 S. Layton Blvd. (Greenfield Avenue at 27th Street)
The concert is free and open to the public — no reservations required
A free will offering will be gratefully accepted
A festive reception will follow
Questions: contact Sr. Mary Jane Wagner at 414-385-5246