Musical groups from The Catholic University of America and the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception are teaming up to perform the annual Christmas Concert for Charity on Friday, Dec. 6, at 8 p.m., in the Great Upper Church of the Basilica, located at 400 Michigan Ave., N.E., Washington, D.C.
The concert is free and open the public; donations gathered during the event will be gathered for the Little Sisters of the Poor, who operate the Jeanne Jugan Residence for the elderly poor in Washington, D.C.
The concert program will feature holiday music from the CUA Chorus and Symphony Orchestra, conducted by CUA’s Leo Nestor, and the Basilica Choir, directed by Peter Latona. Musical selections will include classic Christmas carols and orchestral arrangements, and the U.S. premiere of a 1741 work by Austrian composer Franz Ignac Antonin Tuma, a contemporary and acquaintance of the Haydn brothers and Mozart. The CUA orchestra will play Tuma’s “Motet for the Feast of the Nativity of Our Lord,” composed for orchestra, mixed-chorus and bass solo. The piece was first performed for Christmas in the court chapel of Austria’s dowager Empress Elisabeth Christine. While recorded evidence indicates the piece was performed from 1743 to 1746, it apparently was shelved and replaced by updated compositions.
Other pieces will include “The Christmas Story” and a culturally diverse selection of carols originating from Appalachia, England and the African-American community.
A voluntary collection for the Little Sisters’ Jeanne Jugan Residence will be taken up at the free concert for charity, which in years past has attracted a standing-room-only crowd.
“The mission of the Little Sisters is more relevant than ever today, with the area’s elderly
population steadily growing and increasing numbers of seniors without family support or financial resources,” says the Very Rev. David M. O’Connell, C.M., president of Catholic University. “While CUA students are regular volunteers at the home, we are grateful for this additional opportunity to help the Little Sisters continue to provide excellent care to these vulnerable yet treasured members of our local community.”
Monsignor Michael J. Bransfield, rector of the Basilica, said: "I have long been impressed with the selfless attention the Little Sisters of the Poor provides for their elderly and infirm residents. The Jeanne Jugan Residence radiates a cheerfulness completely contrary to what one may expect. The Little Sisters provide not only for the physical and health needs of those in their charge, but afford a warm and gentle care in true respect for the innate human dignity of each one."
While government assistance helps cover some of the nursing facility residents’ expenses, the rest of the home’s day-to-day operations are supported by donations from parish collections and private gifts.
“We have elderly people who couldn’t live anyplace else because they couldn’t afford it. But here, they have care and spiritual support,” said Sister Christine, administrator of the Jeanne Jugan Residence. “We couldn’t do it without donations from people who are charitable and love the elderly poor. But God inspires people. This gift from Catholic University and the National Shrine was a complete a surprise.”
The Little Sisters of the Poor was founded in France in 1839 by Jeanne Jugan to care for the needy aged. At the time of her death in 1879, the congregation had 2,400 members, caring for the elderly poor in 10 countries in Europe, Africa and North America. Today there are 3,700 Little Sisters of the Poor serving approximately 22,000 elderly persons in 242 homes throughout six continents.
The Catholic University of America is unique as the national university of the Catholic Church and the only university established by the U.S. Catholic bishops. The Washington D.C.-based university offers 57 doctoral, 97 master's and 85 bachelor’s programs in its 11 schools and Metropolitan College. Private and co-educational, the university was established in 1887 as a graduate and research center and began offering undergraduate education in 1904.
The Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception is the largest Catholic church in the western hemisphere and ranks among the largest churches in the world. Completed in 1959, its more than 65 chapels and oratories represent the many ethnic devotions U.S. Catholics have to the Blessed Virgin. Pope John Paul II elevated the National Shrine to the distinction of Basilica in 1990.
For more information about the concert, call the Benjamin T. Rome School of Music at 202-319-4000 or the National Shrine at 202-281-0615.
MEDIA: For more information about the Christmas concert or the Little Sisters of the Poor, or to arrange interviews/coverage, contact Chris Harrison or Victor Nakas at 202-319-5600.
Revised: Feb. 18, 2002
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