San Diego, Calif., Feb 22, 2009 (CNA) - The Celebrant Singers, an international and interdenominational missionary organization, spreads the Gospel through its repertoire of contemporary Christian music. Over the years, the group has played for audiences in nearly 100 countries, including performances for World Youth Day and Mother Teresa.
Since 1977, when it was founded by Jon Stemkoski, the group of vocalists and instrumentalists has performed for more than 7 million people in about 95 countries.
Headquartered in Visalia, Calif., the Celebrant Singers are on tour throughout the year, usually for three months at a time. In a typical three-month period, the group travels by bus to roughly 70 to 80 cities, performing in concert almost every day of the week. They carry with them only what can be packed in suitcases. They find shelter with host families when possible, or hotels when necessary. Their only money comes from free-will donations or post-concert CD sales.
As members of the Celebrant Singers, Rudolfina Avsic and Dorice Paulemont have learned what it means to trust in divine providence.
Avsic, who turned 33 on Feb. 21, had been a violinist with the National Opera Orchestra in Slovenia. Her job paid well and her contract would have guaranteed her a position for life. But after eight years, she felt called to use her musical talents to share the love of Christ with others. She quit her job, left her homeland behind and joined the Celebrant Singers in summer 2006.
She has learned “to live by faith” – and that faith has been constantly rewarded.
“When you leave your boats and your nets and you go with Jesus, you have a lot of stories to share,” said Avsic, a Catholic who plays violin and sings soprano with the Celebrant Singers. “With my own eyes, I see how Jesus works every day, how He takes care of us; because we are not paid [with money], but we are paid from God. God pays us every day with miracles.”
Paulemont, 30, spent five years as a registered nurse in Montreal, Quebec, Canada. She sang in the choir at her evangelical Baptist church, but did not see a future as a singer. But after repeatedly being called upon to perform as a soloist, she decided that God was leading her somewhere. Since 2007, when Paulemont began singing alto with the Celebrant Singers, she has come “to see how God provides.”
“I’m walking in the steps of somebody who walks by faith,” she said. “I’m not walking in the steps of somebody who walks according to her own strength or financial power.”
The Celebrant Singers is a 25-member missionary team, which includes 10 vocalists, a 12-piece orchestra and band, an American Sign Language interpreter, a sound technician and a bus driver. The missionaries hail from various countries around the world, and commit to a minimum of three months of service.
Potential group members must provide a recommendation from their priest or minister, demonstrate their musical talent in an audition, and raise $4,000 – one-third of what it costs for one missionary to tour with the group.
A typical concert includes music and personal testimony from the missionaries themselves; group members also pray individually with attendees at the end of each concert. Concerts have been held at churches, schools, malls, hospitals and other venues. In the past, the group has performed at the Pentagon, several World Youth Day celebrations and even the Nobel Peace Prize reception for Mother Teresa.
Over the years, the Celebrant Singers have brought the Gospel to places where it has not always been welcomed when presented non-musically, such as Albania, Bulgaria and Cuba. The group has also been able to transcend language and cultural barriers.
“I think music is … a universal language,” said Paulemont, who recalled a concert that took place in a remote region of the Philippines where the people did not understand English. Though they did not comprehend the words, she said, “where the Holy Spirit manifests Himself through the music, there’s something; there’s an understanding that is common to everyone.”
The Celebrant Singers are requesting applications from interested singers, musicians, sound technicians, ASL interpreters and bus drivers, age 18 to 40.
For more information or to support the group’s missionary efforts, visit www.celebrants.org.
Printed with permission from the Southern Cross.
Rochester, N.Y., Feb 22, 2009 (CNA) - Respondents to an online poll which asked them to name their heroes were more likely to name President Barack Obama than Jesus Christ.
The Harris Poll, conducted online among 2,634 U.S. adults between Jan. 12 and Jan. 19, asked respondents to name three people they admire enough to call a hero. Those surveyed gave spontaneous answers and were not shown or read a list of people to choose from.
Respondents most often named Barack Obama, followed by Jesus Christ, Martin Luther King, Jr., Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush.
Mother Teresa was the tenth most often named, while God was the eleventh most.
“The fact that President Obama is mentioned more often than Jesus Christ should not be misinterpreted. No list was used and nobody was asked to choose between them,” Harris Interactive said in a statement.
In a similar poll in July 2001, respondents most often named Jesus Christ as their hero, followed by Martin Luther King, Jr., Colin Powell, John F. Kennedy, and Mother Teresa.
Asked to identify what they believe makes someone a hero, respondents named doing what’s right regardless of personal consequences, not giving up until the goal is accomplished, doing more than what other people expect of them, overcoming adversity and staying level-headed in a crisis.
New York City, N.Y., Feb 22, 2009 (CNA) - The Cathedral of St. Patrick Young Adults and the Archdiocese of New York have announced a “24 Hours of Confession” program to make the Sacrament available round-the-clock in Manhattan from March 6 to March 7.
The program will begin at 7:00 a.m. on Friday, March 6 and last through 7:00 a.m. Saturday.
The Cathedral of St. Patrick and 20 other area parishes are participating in the event. Many parishes have extended their hours for hearing confessions for those Catholics who have not found time for the Sacrament.
Participating parishes will keep their confessional doors open for a combined total of more than 120 hours during the 24-hour period.
"Thousands upon thousands of Catholics line-up to receive ashes on Ash Wednesday each year... imagine if these same thousands of Catholics line-up for confession? It could be a tremendous day for Our Lord," said Mario Bruschi, Director of the Cathedral of Saint Patrick Young Adults.
Bruschi noted that in 2007 the Archdiocese of Chicago had organized a “24 Hours of Grace” event with seven parishes participating. About 2,500 people attended Confession, which equals about 105 people per hour.
“The Archdiocese of New York has three times the amount of parishes participating in this event and we hope and pray that three times the amount of people go to confession.”
CNA, speaking with Bruschi by phone on Friday, noted New York City’s nickname as “The City that Never Sleeps” and asked him whether participating parishes are in areas frequented at nighttime.
“Several of these parishes are in areas that are pretty busy at night,” Bruschi said, naming St. Patrick’s Cathedral, Holy Name of Jesus on the west side and St. Stanislaus Kostka in Greenwich Village, which is “always full of activity at night.”
Speaking from his own experience, Bruschi told CNA that he first began to appreciate Confession in high school.
“Those are tough years for anyone. There’s a lot of peer pressure, adjusting to your environment, adjusting to your age. There are a lot of challenges we all face.”
He invoked the imagery of a scene in Mel Gibson’s movie the Passion of the Christ where Mary Magdalene is “on the ground, she’s crawling toward the foot of Jesus, and she’s holding on to him.
“That’s a typical penitent.
“What does Jesus do? He reaches down and lifts her up again.”
Confession during Lent, Bruschi said, helps make people aware of who they are and “how much they need Jesus.”
It also helps prepare Catholics mentally for the day that Christ died on the cross and his Resurrection, he told CNA.
Bruschi again credited the Archdiocese of Chicago’s 24 Hours of Grace program for setting an example for the Manhattan event.
“Reading about what Chicago did really inspired us to put this project together. I think Chicago really has started something here.”
A list of Manhattan parishes participating in the 24 Hours of Confession is available at http://www.cspya.org
Vatican City, Feb 22, 2009 (CNA) - Before reciting the Angelus at noon today, Pope Benedict XVI explained that today, February 22, the Church celebrates the Feast of the Chair of Saint Peter. He asked the tens of thousands of pilgrims to pray that he is able to bring unity to the Church and “faithfully accomplish the task Divine Providence has placed upon him as Successor to the Apostle Peter.”
The Holy Father began his remarks, delivered from the window of his study overlooking St. Peter’s Square, with a brief commentary on Sunday’s Gospel about the episode of the paralytic whom Jesus forgave and healed. This Gospel, the Pontiff said, “shows that not only did Jesus have the power to heal a sick body, but that he also had the power to forgive sins.”
“Physical healing is a sign of the spiritual healing his forgiveness produces,” the Pope continued. “In effect, sin is a sort of paralysis of the spirit from which only the power of God’s merciful love can free us, allowing us to get up and restart our journey on the path of goodness.”
Turning to the day's feast, Pope Benedict XVI explained, “The Chair of Peter symbolizes the authority of the Bishop of Rome, [who is] called to fulfill a special service for the People of God as a whole.”
“Right after the martyrdom of Saints Peter and Paul the Church of Rome was acknowledged as having a primatial role among Catholics, a role attested to as early as the 2nd century by Saint Ignatius of Antioch and Saint Irenaeus of Lyons,” the Holy Father added. The Second Vatican Council, the Pope added, underscored the unique role of providing unity to the diversity of rites within the Church as well as the authority of the Bishop of Rome.
The Pontiff concluded with a prayer asking Mary to help Christians “begin Lent in the right state of mind, which starts Wednesday with its Ash ritual.” The Pope will receive ashes during an afternoon Mass that will be held in the Roman Basilica of Saint Sabina.
After the Marian prayer, Pope Benedict XVI greeted the English-speaking pilgrims present in the square: “I am pleased to greet all the English-speaking pilgrims gathered for this Angelus. In today’s liturgy, we witness Jesus healing the paralytic lowered to him through the roof because of a large crowd. This passage reminds us that the Lord has power to forgive sins, and that nothing stands in the way of his mercy when we seek him with pure and contrite hearts. Let us never hesitate to ask his pardon, especially through the Sacrament of Reconciliation, so that we may become better instruments of his love for others. God bless you all.”
Washington D.C., Feb 22, 2009 (CNA) - Professor Douglas Kmiec, the scholar who provided a justification for allowing Catholics to vote for Barack Obama, despite the president's consistent pro-abortion track record, wrote last week on Time Magazine's website that Pope Benedict XVI's words to Nancy Pelosi were "intrusive" in legal matters, because they put the whole judicial system in an impossible moral dilemma.
In his piece Prof. Kmiec implied that the Pope exaggerated or at least did not measure the consequences of his words when he told Nancy Pelosi that "jurists," in addition to legislators, must work "in cooperation with all men and women of good will in creating a just system of laws capable of protecting human life at all stages of its development."
According to Kmiec, such a statement “has the potential, at least theoretically, to empty the U.S. Supreme Court of all five of its Catholic jurists, and perhaps all other Catholics who sit on the bench in the lower federal and state courts.”
The Pepperdine professor suggests the Pope, instead, could take "a different, less intrusive course," by "continuing to observe the difference between a jurist and a legislator."
"Few are pleased with the abortion jurisprudence as it is," argues Kmiec, but by "imposing moral duties on Catholic jurists that are incompatible with their envisioned judicial role in a democracy," Pope Benedict XVI "is hardly likely to make it better."
Edward Whelan, President of the Ethics and Public Policy Center and director of its program on The Constitution, the Courts, and the Culture, questioned "whether Kmiec’s reading (of the Vatican statement) is actually a careful one."
"For starters, Kmiec assumes that the term 'jurists' is equivalent to 'judges'," Whelan explains, when actually the terms applies to "any person who possesses a degree in law."
The EPPC expert explains that "even if the statement does apply to American judges, all it says is that 'jurists' should 'work in co-operation with all men and women of good will in creating a just system of laws capable of protecting human life at all stages of its development.' Kmiec turns this into an “admonition to ‘jurists’ to undertake an activist, law-changing role. But the statement doesn’t compel that reading."
"If one understands the judicial interpretation of laws to be part of the creation of a system of laws, then the statement would permit American judges to play their proper role (which includes not inventing constitutional 'rights' to abortion," Whelan ads.
Finally, Whelan sees no reason to turn the Vatican statement into an occasion to criticize the Pope for being "intrusive." "The Press Office statement is only that —a Press Office statement, one occasioned by Nancy Pelosi’s visit and undoubtedly carefully reviewed for that purpose, but no more than that," he concludes.