The Catholic University of America

Dec. 17, 2015

Concert Raises $13,000 for Brookland Convent

  Sister Deirdre Byrne, P.O.S.C. 

When Sister Deirdre Byrne, P.O.S.C., learned last week that the 26th Annual Christmas Concert for Charity had raised $13,000 to support the work of her convent near The Catholic University of America, she was jubilant.

Sister Dede, as she is known, said the money will help to cover expenses at the pro-bono preschool and ophthalmology and physical therapy clinics that she and her fellow sisters run at the Little Workers of the Sacred Hearts convent at 13th and Otis streets in the Brookland neighborhood of northwest Washington, D.C.

“Once again, the Lord has provided,” said Sister Dede, superior of the convent, a general surgeon, and a clinical instructor for Georgetown University and The George Washington University. “He always does.”

At the concert on Dec. 4, Sister Dede thanked those gathered at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception for attending the annual event and shared the story of the sisters’ work in Brookland, where they have served the Church for more than 60 years. Worldwide the order has about 400 sisters who serve as missionaries in India, Albania, and Argentina, and provide medical missions in Haiti, Sudan, and Iraq.

Three sisters first came to Washington in 1948 from their native Italy, where the order is known as Le Piccole Operaie dei Sacri Cuori. Initially they served as cooks at St. Josaphat Ukrainian Catholic Seminary in Brookland. Sister Licia Lupinacci, P.O.S.C., who was at the concert, came to the United States in 1954, worked at the seminary, learned to speak English, and served as the director of the preschool for more than 20 years. She is the youngest of nine children — three of whom became members of the order.

Sister Dede praised Sister Licia, as one of the order’s “first missionaries to America.” Now 83, Sister Licia works in the convent’s yard, weeding and tending the fig trees that she has planted there, and still offers advice on the care and education of children at the preschool. Joking, Sister Dede said, “I know she’s going to kill me, but at the conclusion of the Year of Consecrated Life, I’d like to honor Sister Licia Lupinacci.”

The concert, cosponsored by the Benjamin T. Rome School of Music and the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception, took place in the Basilica’s Great Upper Church.

From left to right, Monsignor Walter Rossi, Sister Deirdre Byrne, Sister Licia Lupinacci, Sister Pamela Martenez, and President Garvey.  

The first portion of the concert featured the Choir of the Basilica, conducted by Peter Latona, director of music. The second half featured the CUA Chamber Choir, the University Singers, University Chorus, and the CUA Symphony Orchestra conducted by Leo Nestor, Justine Bayard Ward Professor, director of choral studies, and director of the Institute of Sacred Music.

This year’s concert was particularly noteworthy for Nestor since it was his last Christmas concert before a spring 2016 sabbatical and retirement from Catholic University or “moving on to new adventures,” as he prefers to refer to the years ahead.

Nestor has conducted the Christmas concerts since the first collaboration between CUA and the basilica in 1988 when he was music director at the Basilica and an adjunct professor at CUA. He has conducted the University musicians since coming to CUA full time 15 years ago.




More news from CUA