How Sweet the Sound

SCCS students perform in honour of Year of Mercy

Last November our Principal was in the Vatican attending an Education Congress together with over 1000 other school leaders. At the conclusion of the congress, His Holiness, Pope Francis, reminded those present that Catholic schools are to be Christ-centered communities where students can encounter transcendence and genuine relationships. With that in mind, he shared his hope that students would get beyond school walls and mingle with people as “it is from the peripheries that reality may be understood”. He ended his talk by imploring those working in schools to make the jubilee year of mercy really count in each school community.

And so we did.

The performance of the Musical Cantata culminated a full year of our SCCS students, ages 5 through 12, going outside the walls of comfort and interacting with others in a genuine exchange. We stepped outside the boundaries of our Archdiocese, outside of our neighborhood. We joined with people of different generations, different faiths, and different cultures in a meaningful way. We learned diverse music, created holy doors and spent time in the Ukrainian cathedral, an architectural masterpiece. We interacted with the poor and the homeless. And with each new encounter, the students who began the journey as followers, gradually have become the teachers and the leaders.  It is with that foundation of enriched experiences that they, with youthfulness, joy and enthusiasm proclaimed the gift of mercy on the evening of November 15th, 2016.

cover5The Musical Cantata to Celebrate the Year of Mercy project actually started quite simply – with Fr. Geoffrey Angeles and a few school staff, namely, Mrs. Kathy Lalonde, Mrs. Aneta Prettie, Mrs. Kim Furutani and Dr. Penny brainstorming. And, in true St. Charles’ style, it grew quickly into a much bigger project – bigger than most tiny, elementary schools like ours could ever  imagine taking on!

Soon we were reaching out to Sr. Lesley Sacouman and Imee Guttierez at House of Peace, Steve Denby and his Bisons Men’s Chorus, Msgr. Buyachok, rector of the Cathedral of Sts. Vladimir and Olga….well, to make a long story short – check out the Winnipeg Free Press story attached below!

Dr. Penny began the event that evening with a short introduction:

“…..We chose this cathedral in part for its inspiring architecture….these beautiful arched ceilings symbolize the little bridges that were built from one community with another this year…like one heart string at a time! Once you hear this program, you will understand why we are grateful these organizations joined together and are with us tonight…..The programming is rife with symbolism, beginning with the men leading the way and eventually following the children’s lead, the children providing learning opportunities and the Friends from House of Peace bringing everyone together in prayer…”

She was followed by a short introduction to the mission of House of peace by Imee Guttierez, Program Coordinator for House of Peace. Imee shared that “12 years ago, Holy Names House of Peace was born.  Within the House of Peace is Neighbours, an intercultural, interfaith, safe home for newcomer women who have come here because of poverty, war and/or abuse.  These courageous women show us the way. They teach us to love one another as they want to be loved. Mercy is God’s name. Mercy lives in the House of Peace. This evening is also a celebration – of thanksgiving, of joy and love. It is a celebration of lives shaped by mercy. Where better to celebrate, than in a church of such utter beauty that it is in itself a testament to the resilience of merciful people touched by God’s mercy.

A video of the entire Cantata as well as a “highlights” video may be found on the school website http://www.stccs.ca/video.html

“God’s mercy can make even the driest land become a garden, can restore life to dry bones (cf. Ez 37:1-14). … Let us be renewed by God’s mercy, let us be loved by Jesus, let us enable the power of his love to transform our lives too; and let us become agents of this mercy, channels through which God can water the earth, protect all creation and make justice and peace flourish.” — Pope Francis’ Easter Urbi et Orbi message on March 31, 2013

Free Press Article below posted: 11/12/2016

How sweet the sound

Mass choir performs in honour of Year of Mercy

By: Brenda Suderman
Posted: 11/12/2016 3:00 AM | Comments: 0

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RUTH BONNEVILLE/WINNIPEG FREE PRESS

Students from St. Charles Catholic School rehearse a cantata on the theme of mercy to mark the end of the Roman Catholic Jubilee Year of Mercy.

Adults often struggle with how to express or even define mercy, but Amy Hildebrand, 10, has a firm grasp on what the concept means in her life.

“I’ve learned anybody can have mercy,” explains the Grade 5 student at St. Charles Catholic School.

“You have to learn to have mercy, to not be rude, don’t yell, (and) be polite.”

Hildebrand and 100 classmates at the west Winnipeg private elementary school present a cantata on the theme of mercy to mark the end of the Roman Catholic Jubilee Year of Mercy. The hour-long free concert begins at 6:30 p.m. on Nov. 15 at Ukrainian Catholic Metropolitan Cathedral of Sts. Vladimir and Olga, 115 McGregor St.

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RUTH BONNEVILLE/WINNIPEG FREE PRESS

Faith Page Story: Students from St. Charles Catholic School rehearse cantata on theme of mercy for upcoming House of Peace shelter performance.

See Brenda Suderman story.Nov 03, 2016

Featuring a mass choir of 100 middle school and junior high students, the Bison Men’s Choir, and readers from the House of Peace, the concert of hymns, prayers and readings concludes a year of intensive study and practical learning around the concept, explains principal Anne Penny.

Catholics around the world celebrated a special Year of Mercy from Dec. 8, 2015 to Nov. 20, 2016 at the request of Pope Francis, and many churches and cathedrals designated an entrance as a door of mercy. Penny says the Pope specifically encouraged Catholic educators to bring this year alive for students.

“We’ve worked really hard to get them outside our school community, so they can see other people, other communities, other realities,” she says.

That effort to get beyond themselves included field trips to House Peace, a downtown residence for women in transition, student music performances at St. Mary’s Cathedral, and visiting other community agencies.

That real world experience broadened the concept of mercy for students in practical ways, explains Grade 8 student Paige Quick.

“Mercy is about helping people and having empathy for other people,” she explains.

“It helps me make better choices because you’re thinking about mercy for the last year.”

Mercy also includes working together for something bigger than oneself, a concept music director Kathleen Lalonde says is exemplified in the upcoming performance, which has the Bison Men’s Chorus provide harmonies for the school choir in several songs.

“We asked them to join us in a concert… where they are becoming part of us in the community,” explains Lalonde, who also teaches music in the public school system.

“Music is one of those things that brings people together.”

Serving others through music has always been the mandate of the Bison Men’s Chorus, a community choir of 44 affiliated with the music faculty at the University of Manitoba, explains director Steve Denby.

“It’s just a natural fit to sing with kids, to be in ensemble, to sing with another director, to give back to the community,” says the choir, band and guitar teacher at J.H. Bruns Collegiate.

“We want kids to experience what it is like to be in a big choir in a beautiful building.”

RUTH BONNEVILLE/WINNIPEG FREE PRESS

RUTH BONNEVILLE/WINNIPEG FREE PRESS

Faith Page Story: Students from St. Charles Catholic School rehearse cantata on theme of mercy for upcoming House of Peace shelter performance.

See Brenda Suderman story.Nov 03, 2016

The location also excites Hildebrand, awed by the 34 stained glass windows, and the 17 murals on the ceilings and walls.

“My favourite part of the cantata is being at the beautiful church and walking through the doors of mercy,” she says.

“Every single window tells a story. I like looking at the windows.”

Just as mercy is a collaborative effort, so is a concert like this, says Penny, who wrote the script for the cantata. Instrumental parts were arranged by Michael Cutler, organist at Crescent-Fort Rouge United Church, and Rev. Geoffrey Angeles of St. Mary’s Roman Catholic Cathedral helped children understand the theological meanings in the songs.

She says the year-long process of studying the many aspects of mercy — sometimes characterized as compassion or kindness — has opened up the eyes and hearts of students, as well as shaping the culture of the school and the larger community.

“We use a lot of words correlated with (mercy), such as empathy, forgiveness, kindness, charity, for one another,” say Penny, who holds a doctorate in music education.

“It’s that deep love when you’re kind to someone just because.”

brenda@suderman.com