40th Anniversary of the St. Joseph Gospel Choir

By: Ed Jones, Black Catholic Community

img_8524The St. Joseph Gospel Choir held its annual concert on Sunday, October 16, 2016 entitled “Dwell in The House,” marking its 40th Anniversary of providing song and praise at St. Joseph Catholic Church in Alexandria, Virginia. Starting from humble beginnings in 1976, when gospel music was not commonly sung in the Roman Catholic Church, the choir is now recognized for its musical talent in gospel expression; St. Joseph Gospel Choir receives frequent requests to sing for Church events, as well as concerts throughout the Washington Metropolitan area and beyond.

The 40th Anniversary Concert also included choirs and performers from the metropolitan area, making this event an even larger spirit and joy-filled celebration. The gospel choirs
from Our Lady Queen of Peace in Arlington, Virginia, and Incarnation Catholic Church in Washington, DC added to an evening of beautiful music. The Hunt Sisters, a familyimg_8480 quartet, performed traditional gospel spiritual songs, and the Towdah Mime Ministry acted out mime praise
interpretations to music. Mr. Jeffery Corry serenaded the
audience with a collection of piano melodies from popular spiritual songs.  At the conclusion of the evening, everyone left feeling completely fulfilled.

Join in the celebration! St. Joseph’s Gospel Choir sings at 11:00 a.m. Mass at St. Joseph Catholic Church, 711 N. Columbus Street, Alexandria, VA 22314, on the third Sunday of every month. All are welcome!

Sending Scholarships to the Philippines

By Chiqui P. Sanchez, Filipino-American Catholic Community

filipino-cross

One of our diocesan Filipino/American Catholic Communities is based at Our Lady of Good Counsel (OLGC) Catholic Church in Vienna, Virginia. As a Fil/Am Catholic ministry, one of our goals is to reach out to the Fil/Am community at OLGC, its neighboring parishes and to our fellow countrymen and women in the Philippines. Since its inception 10 years ago, we have been blessed with opportunities to reach this goal. We have financially contributed to the assistance of major disaster victims in the Philippines through collaboration with major organizations in the Washington DC Metropolitan area such as Feed the Hungry, Inc. and through partnership with the St. Vincent de Paul Society.  We have reached out to families in the areas who have suffered financial setbacks because of illness. We have also extended support to the Movie Workers Welfare Foundation, Inc. (Mowelfund) which is a leading film and resource center that contributes to the overall improvement of the Philippine Film Industry and whose major objective is to address the needs of the movie workers behind the scenes and their families. Through our community outreach program, another goal that the Fil/Am Catholic ministry of Our Lady of Good Counsel has been aiming for is to provide a Filipino student a college scholarship.  College costs for many of those living in poverty in the Philippines are extremely out of reach.   For just a few hundred US dollars a year, we can provide the opportunity for impoverished youth of the Philippines to access a college education.

In March of 2016, we met with Father Posey, Pastor of St. James, Mr. Mike Mele, who travels with Father Posey on behalf of the Pontifical Mission Society and Mrs. Corinne Monogue from the Diocesan Office of Multicultural Ministries about scholarships through YSLEP (Youth Servant Leadership and Education Program) under Caritas Manila (a Catholic organization). Father Posey, Mike and Corinne were in the Philippines in February 2016 to see for themselves what YSLEP is and all three were able to convince those of us in attendance from the OLGC ministry that this scholarship program is a worthy endeavor for our ministry to take on. This meeting concretized our long-time goal to be able to support students in the Philippines.

Through our contact with Caritas Manila, our OLGC-based Fil/Am Community Ministry now has an YSLEP scholar. Leobert Francisco from Basilan, Isabela is in his 2nd year of studies in Education at the Claret College, and we will see him through until he gets his degree in 2019. With our fundraising initiatives that we continue to pursue, with the unfailing moral and spiritual support from our Pastor and staff at OLGC, and the untiring effort from the members of our ministry, God willing, we will be able to sponsor more students who are in need through Caritas Manila. We feel blessed that we have been given yet another opportunity to serve and we are deeply grateful that we are able to make a difference in the life of one of our own brothers and sisters in Christ.  Please keep Leobert Franciso in your prayers for his educational opportunities and future success.

A Journey Traveling into my Heart with Jesus Christ

Introduction
By Reverend Stefan Starzynski, Hospital Chaplain, Fairfax Innova Hospital,
In Residence at Saint Ambrose Parish, Annandale, VA

Patricia asked me to do the opening prayer for a group called ‘Lightworks’.  I fully expected to do the opening prayer, eat a cookie or two, and say “Hi” to a few people and then be on my merry way.

Right from the start, I felt in my spirit that this was something for me.  This began a “14” week journey with my fellow pilgrims.  I was learning Christian contemplation using the exercises of Saint Ignatius.  Many saints have said that every renewal of the church began with a renewed love for the Holy Word of God.  I believe that is the Truth!

 

Reflections on my Lightworks Experience
3 Years Contemplating the Words of Jesus

Written by: Patricia Butler, St. Ambrose Parishioner

Four years ago, I would have been the most unlikely person to share my Catholic Faith with anyone- let alone write an article reflecting on the Fire in my Heart for Jesus Christ!  And explaining how that Fire was ignited, is the first of many small and wonderful ever-unfolding miracles put in my life by Jesus…

You see, I left the Catholic Church in the 1980’s and I went on an ardent journey searching for God.  Who is God?  What is God?  Where is God?  I read just about every Holy Book of every world religion, trying to find the answers to these questions.  .  .

Then one day in August, 2013, I realized that the Catholic Church was right.  Every thought in our mind, every word spoken and every deed  can either bring us closer to God or push us further away from God.  At that moment of realization – Confession, examination of conscience made sense. I had received Jesus back in my life. What I was soon to discover however, was Jesus had always been with me on my Journey looking for Him!  It was time to discover what Jesus wanted to teach me, when I was born into a Catholic family in 1950.

Relying on Faith and the inspiration I received from the Holy Spirit, I regist
ered as a member of St. Ambrose parish in Annandale, VA.  I went to confession, began attending Sunday Mass regularly and joined the group Jesus, Mary and a Cup of Joe to participate in the parish community life.

One Sunday, I saw a notice in the St. Ambrose Bulletin for Lightworks, by Fr. Joseph Tetlow, SJ.  The notice jumped off the page at me.  I was very interested in learning about Christian Contemplation (the exercises of Saint Ignatius Loyola) with the hope it would deepen my rediscovered Catholic Faith. So, I signed up for the 14 week personal retreat that started in January 2014.  The first 2 weeks, I had a schedule conflict and could not attend the group sessions.  Liem Le, the former President of the Christian Life Community in the USA, scheduled phone calls with me, to go over the materials each week, so I would not miss Sessions 1 and 2.  From the start, I knew in my heart that the spiritual exercises were for me.  The Lightworks journey began with reflections on our lives as gifts from God.  Affirmations that God loves each one of us in an intimate and unique way.  The sessions included scripture passages (words of God’s Love) to pray over and consider, using the techniques of St. Ignatius, taught weekly.  At the group meetings, we would share the Graces that God had given us during week of contemplation, and learn the next lesson – God’s Divine Presence through the scriptures.

All the blessings and graces happened very unexpectedly for me.  While reading the assigned scriptures, listening and talking about the scriptures, I began to feel this wonderful Presence. (A presence you feel when you go to Eucharistic Adoration or receive Holy Communion).  My heart was filled with warmth and love.  God’s Words had become alive for me in my heart.

With this gift from God being given to me, I started to long for more and more of His Presence.  So I began attending Daily Mass, so that I could contemplate the scripture verses of the day (using the Lightworks methods of St. Ignatius) and listen to each of the Father’s talks about the daily readings.

I want to share with you my “Lightworks Session 3 experience” with you.  We were praying to know the Spirit of Life working in the world and in each of us.  While contemplating our assignment,  Isaiah 40: 1-11 in Lightworks manual & various translations in the online Bible Gateway, I realized that the 1599 Geneva Bible translation, was the libretto for Handel’s Messiah, Part 1,which had been part of my musical studies in my youth.  I went online & found the musical version of the Messiah. As I listened to the musical version of our Lightworks assignment, my heart began to open up in a way, I find hard to explain.  The awesome beauty of the music coupled with God’s Words was so amazing!  I got totally lost in the music and in God’s Words.  I found myself playing The Messiah constantly during the entire week, when the music wasn’t playing; the songs were playing in my head, day and night, at home, at work and in the car!  I started to realize that Jesus was teaching me in a personal way the words of Isaiah 40: “the Glory of the Lord shall be revealed to me and to all peoples. All people including myself shall see God’s Love & Glory.  The mouth of God, speaks God’s Words!” God’s Love & Glory is in His Words.

My contemplative prayer experience began to shift from my head to my heart.  I began to discover that God’s love is ever present in my heart. And God’s love is ever present in all hearts and in all creation!  God’s love is all around me. God’s love is in everything.

As we were learning and practicing the wonderful techniques of St. Ignatius, my love experience of Jesus in my heart was deepening.  The contemplations opened my heart’s awareness of Jesus’s love in each moment.  I could hardly wait for the group meetings to share God’s graces.   I looked forward to the group’s sharing and the prayer insights of each participant.

As the weeks progressed, the group’s sharing took on a totally new dimension.  It was as though God’s love in my heart was being amplified through God’s love in everyone else’s heart. Their sharing’s made my heart burn with God’s love. It is hard to describe my group experience. Everything was alive with the fire of God’s love during our group prayer sessions.  My heart, my eyes, my ears and my breath were alive with God’s loving presence.

Following the 2014 Lightworks retreat, I reaped many, many graces: Discovering that Jesus is alive in His Word, that it is Jesus who lives in my heart, discovering how to rest in my heart with the words of Jesus AND experience His Divine Presence during contemplation practices.

After the 2014 Lightworks Retreat, I continued participating in Lightworks 2015, and 2016.  The love experience of Jesus in my heart became stronger and more profound.   Each year, while the material in the manual remained the same, my gifts from Jesus were different.  Like peeling back the layers of an onion, my heart “saw” and “heard” His Words on a new and deeper level.  I found myself falling deeper and deeper in Love with Jesus and falling deeply in Love with my Catholic Faith.

The recognition that it is truly possible to (Philippians 2:5) “let the same mind is in you, that was in Christ Jesus” is incredibly healing.  We do not have to know how to pray, but the Holy Spirit prays within us. (Romans 8:26). We just have to sit with His Word, pray on His Word. Treasuring the presence of His Holy Spirit in our heart.  Sitting in the silence of my heart, praying on His Words, I can go into the depths of my heart. And in my Heart, I find this incredible Peace and Healing Love of Jesus Christ. Jesus share with me your love and blessings- breathing in your Grace, Breathing out your Grace…

In closing, I want to share another wonderful healing which I received as a result of the Lightworks retreat in 2014.  This healing was truly a gift from Jesus to me. I woke up one morning right after the first year.  I realized how happy I was to have come back Home to the Catholic Church. All the burdensome years of doubts & inner conflicts had dissolved into Jesus Christ’s fire of love!  Now, every day, I wonder, how did I ever live this life without my Catholic Faith nourishing me? Strengthening me? And guiding me with the Joy of Jesus?

Today, I am filled with so much gratefulness. I have seen so many participants transform themselves and their lives as a result of the Lightworks Journey. A group Journey learning to Love with Jesus. A Journey where the group realizes, God’s love has always been present.  Jesus is always waiting for us to open up our hearts and take the Journey with HIM.  A personal and group Journey traveling with Jesus who is filling our hearts with the Holy Spirit and the fire of God’s love.  With gratefulness, I invite you to come on the Lightworks Retreat 2017.  Come and discover the wonderful surprises that Jesus has in store for you contemplating His Word. Share in this incredible opportunity to be with God in the silence of your heart, in the presence of Jesus and His Word.  Come on a journey from your head to your heart in prayer, using the Spiritual Exercises of Saint Ignatius.  God Bless you. Hope to see you all next year!

Thanks to all the wonderful people who made this Lightworks program possible: Father Andrew Fisher, pastor of St. Ambrose Parish, Corinne Monogue of the Office of Multicultural Ministries of the Diocese of Arlington, Father Joseph Tetlow, S.J., Liem T. Le of the Lightworks Ministry of the Christian Life Community in the USA, and Father Stefan StarzynskI who joined the Lightworks Journey 2016 as a participant in St Ambrose.

 

Reflection on the Caribbean Catholics of North America Lenten Retreat 2016

Written by: Bernadette Springer

On February 4, I attended a Lenten Retreat organized by the Caribbean Catholics of North America, Inc. (CCNA), an organization set up in response to the call for “Welcoming the Stranger “ by the USCCB. This Retreat is one of the CCNA’s annual events to help support the spiritual growth of Caribbean Catholics and Catholics of Caribbean descent residing in the United States.

The Retreat was held at St. Michael the Archangel Parish in Silver Spring, Maryland under the theme, “Merciful like the Father,” and was directed by Rev. Collin Anthony Henriques from Jamaica.

Father Henriques emphasized forgiveness and the need to empathize with people whom we are likely to judge. We were urged to engage people and listen to their story before we cast judgment, so that we can understand their behavior and be more compassionate and forgiving. During one exercise, Father Henriques had each one of us hold a Crucifix and meditate on the love and compassion of God through the offering of His Son, Jesus, even when we did not deserve it.

I found the Retreat to be a very useful experience because one of my Lenten resolutions was to forgive someone whom I had a difficulty in forgiving; after the Retreat I felt more courageous and strengthened in my resolve to forgive. I have been able to forgive the individual and every time negative thoughts come up, I picture the Crucifix and remember God’s compassion and mercy to me for all the times I offend him.

This helped me enter the Easter season with tremendous joy and peace.

Feast of San Pedro Calungsod

This past Saturday, April 2, the diocesan Filipino-American community came together at Our Lady of Good Counsel Catholic Church in Vienna to celebrate the Feast Day of San (Saint) Pedro Calungsod, a Filipino Catholic martyr. San Pedro Calungsod was killed as a teenager while doing missionary work in Guam and is now known as the Patron Saint of Filipino youth, altar boys, the Philippines and overseas Filipino workers. San Pedro Calungsod was beatified on March 5, 2000 by Pope John Paul II.

The Principal Celebrant of the Mass in honor of San Pedro Calungsod was Reverend Ramel O. Portula, CICM, and other celebrants included Rev. William J. Metzger, OSFS, and Rev. John Dolan, OSFS. The Serenata Choir from the Our Lady of Good Counsel Filipino-American Ministry sang joyously at the Mass, in their native language of Tagalog.

 

Our Lady of Good Counsel recently installed an icon of San Pedro Calungsod in their middle
school. Ms Robin Williams, a middle school Religion Teacher at Our Lady of Good CounselIMG_2095 Catholic School, shared the impact that the San Pedro Calungsod icon has had on her, personally, “What an inspiration it has been to have the icon of San Pedro in our middle school Religion classroom. The OLGC students relate to San Pedro because of his youthfulness. San Pedro’s stoic actions of ‘teaching the Faith in the midst of hostility’ give our youth courage to do the same. Even though they are not being asked to lay down their lives, they sometimes have to lay down their wills to each the Gospel message. San Pedro is a daily reminder for our students to LIVE JESUS in all the things they say an do. We have been blessed to house the beautiful icon of San Pedro this past year and thank all those who have allowed us the opportunity to come to know San Pedro on a more intimate level.”

The Feast Day of San Pedro Calungsod is on April 2 of every year. Join us next year in celebration of his devout faith and Filipino heritage!

 

Reflection on Joint Conference 2015

Written by: Deacon Albert Anderson

Through Faith and Strength, Acknowledge the Past, Embrace the Present, Create the Future, this was the theme of Joint Conference 2015. The conference, which took place in Charleston, S.C. from July 26-30, was a gathering of the National Black Sisters’ Conference (NBSC); National Black Catholic Clergy Caucus (NBCCC); National Association of Black Catholic Deacons (NAB CD); and the National Black Catholic Seminarians Association (NBCSA).

There were several Conference sessions focused on how to create a better future. One approach was to list and examine the cultural strengths of the Black Catholic community. Those listed included:

  • Strong Kinship Bonds
  • Strong Work Ethic
  • Orientation Toward High Achievement
  • Emphasis on Religion/Church
  • Emphasis on Education
  • Racial Pride
  • Resourcefulness
Mother Emmanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church

Mother Emmanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church

Attendees at each table were tasked with sharing examples in their own families, past and present, of the above qualities. We were then asked to strategize on how to best nurture those qualities in our home towns. A future conference will discuss the results of those strategies and measure the success of their implementation.

Conference attendees also had the great privilege of praying inside Mother Emmanuel African Methodist Episcopal (AME) Church, where nine of our sisters and brothers in Christ were murdered during a Bible Study class on June 17, 2015. They were: The Honorable Rev. Clementa Pinckney, 41 (Lead Pastor), Depayne Middleton Doctor, 49, Ethel Lance, 70, Susie Jackson, 87, Cynthia Hurd, 54, Tywanza Sanders, 26, Rev. Sharonda Coleman-Singleton, 49, Myra Thompson, 59, Rev. Daniel Simmons Sr., 74.

Because our sisters and brothers at Mother Emmanuel had been fed by the Word of God, the church members left to mourn the dead were able to forgive their killer, to feed him the forgiveness with which the Giver of Life feeds us all. Hopefully, by God’s grace we will never have to personally experience a tragedy of the scale of our sisters and brothers in Charleston, but there is a lesson to be learned here!

South Carolina #3

Mass at Mother Emmanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church

The 2016 Joint Conference will be held in San Diego, CA… stay tuned!

Recap: First Annual Multicultural Choral Concert

HopXuongCaDaVanHoa_2015 (91)

Photo taken by Mr. Tuyen and Mr. Thao

This past April, the Office of Multicultural Ministries held its first annual Multicultural Choral Concert! Hosted by Bishop Ireton High School in Alexandria, VA, the concert featured various choirs throughout our Diocese from all different cultures. The participating choirs were as follows: Filipino Serenata Choir from Our Lady of Good Counsel Parish, Ghana Catholic Community Choir from Queen of Apostles Parish, Heartsongs: Tam Tinh Ca, Hispanic Charismatic Choir from Good Shepherd Parish, Holy Martyrs of Vietnam Combined Choir, St. Joseph Gospel Choir, and St. Paul Chung Korean Choir.

Callie 6 - Multicultural Choral Concert

Photo taken by Mrs. Phyllis L. Johnson

Each choir performed at least two songs, including the Finale song, Celtic Alleluia by Christopher Walker, which was sung collaboratively by all of the choirs. The entire concert was a beautiful event, showcasing just a few of the many ethnic cultures that are so prevalent in the Diocese of Arlington. The Bishop Ireton students were very involved with the concert, as well – students whose cultural diversity represented each of the performing choirs would introduce a choir before they took the stage. This was the first time our office directly collaborated with Bishop Ireton High School, and it was a major success! Bishop Ireton has already started to plan for the second annual Multicultural Choral Concert in their state-of-the-art auditorium for April 2016. We look forward to seeing you all there!

Korean women with drums

Photo taken by Mr. Tuyen and Mr. Thao

To view some footage of this year’s Multicultural Choral Concert, watch the video below, filmed by Mr. Ed Jones of the Black Catholic Community.