In these challenging times of racial tension, political unrest and religious intolerance, the ethereal voices of sisters, brothers and priests from the Milwaukee Archdiocese of Milwaukee will join heavenward to bring a soothing balm of community compassion in a celebration of consecrated life Friday, Feb. 2, at St. Joseph Chapel in Milwaukee.
The seventh annual prayer service titled “Light Out of Darkness, Peace and Reconciliation” melds prayer with music under the direction of Charles Q. Sullivan.
The idea for the musical prayer service began in 2012 when men and women of the archdiocese gathered to consider how they might celebrate and witness to consecrated life. According to Sr. Mary Jane Wagner, SSSF, a member of the planning committee, the group decided to host a concert, “In Joyful Hope,” which featured a massed choir of more than 60 singers from a dozen or more communities.
“Each year since 2013, we have had such an event,” she said. “More recently, we had an Evening Prayer; last year a Pentecost Prayer and this year it will be a prayer service around the theme of Peace and Reconciliation.”
In addition to the Massed Choir of nearly 50 members consisting of religious community members, archdiocesan priests, lay members and associations from several community, the Chapel Singers of the School Sisters of St. Francis will also sing. Members of approximately 10 parishes will assist as singers, greeters, lectors and serving refreshments.
The hour-long service will open with several reflective hymns as a prelude, said planning committee member Sr. Marianne Siegel, SSND.
“The service itself consists of readings and sung responses with assembly participation. Janan Najeeb, from the Milwaukee Muslim Women’s Coalition, will give the reflection,” she said. “Archbishop Jerome Listecki will be the presider. This is a wonderful opportunity for all religious from the archdiocese to pray together along with the lay who support us in our ministries.”
This musical prayer service is an exciting step in recognizing inclusivity and respect for all kinds of people, said Fr. Peter Schussler, SDS, also a member of the planning committee.
“It is a crucial theme that speaks to the divisive segregation and racism here in Milwaukee, as well as addressing our entire world given the sad shape we are in at this time,” he said. “We are fortunate to have Ms. Janan Najeeb, who will offer the reflection. There are so many kinds of divisions now in our country and our world. This prayer service is one sincere effort on the part of Catholic religious, priests and laity to give witness to the possibility of the kind of conversion of heart that will foster respect, acceptance and appreciation of differences. It is this kind of approach to differences that will enrich our lives and bring us together as God’s human family. Too optimistic? Perhaps, but it is a step on the journey to fulfilling Christ’s wish that ‘all may be one.’”
The choir will sing a wide range, including, “Sing a New Song,” by Dan Schutte, “Christ Has Called Us To New Visions,” by Jane Parker Huber, “Your Wonderful Life,” by Francis Patrick O’Brien, and “Christ Be Our Light,” by Bernadette Farrell.
This program is important from several standpoints, said Sr. Wagner, and flooding the world with signs of understanding and focusing on what we all have in common is the antidote to so much turmoil in the world.
“Finding our common ground is a great starting point and one reason we have Ms. Najeeb offering the reflection,” said Sr. Wagner. “Once we find our common ground, we can collaborate and publicly witness our common commitment and do this together.”
Most important is the commitment between religious and the Church to the same goals, specifically, the call to stand with the voiceless in society and to uphold peace and justice in their daily lives. Sr. Wagner hopes that even more will come than the 250 who attended the prayer service last year. This service dedicated to consecrated life is an opportunity to recognize this other dimension of Church.
“The consecrated life is not as visible as it once was, perhaps because of fewer members, but also because we don’t have an opportunity to speak about what this life is all about,” she explained. “We hope our audience feels a renewed commitment to be a source of peace and reconciliation; a growing recognition of interfaith endeavors towards this goal and an appreciation of our shared vision among and beyond individual congregations and communities. We are people of hope and we stand in solidarity as a group.”