SHU Community Gathers for ‘Stations: A Lenten Concert of Sacred Song’

News Story: March 1, 2010

Members of the Sacred Heart University community and the public gathered on Friday evening, March 19, for a contemplative evening of song and prayer, Stations: A Lenten Concert of Sacred Song with Sister Kathleen Deignan and the Schola Ministries Ensemble at the University's new Chapel of the Holy Spirit.
Sister Deignan, of the Congregation of Notre Dame, is a renowned Catholic academic, musician, composer, singer and psalmist and founder the Schola Ministries, which promotes the liturgical and contemplative arts.
Guitarist Beth Bradley and pianist Rob Silvan, also composers and liturgical musicians, joined Sister Deignan along with percussionist Marion Najamy.
Sister Kathleen Deignan is no stranger to Sacred Heart University – in the 1960s, as a student at Sacred Heart, she worked in Campus Ministry with the Reverend John Giuliani and began her ministry of sacred song. It was during her years at Sacred Heart that Sister Deignan formed Schola, a group of musicians and singers who graced the sacred celebrations with their gifts of music and song.

The purpose of Friday’s spiritual event was multi-layered as the Sacred Heart community celebrates the opening of the Chapel of the Holy Spirit.
The meditative program allowed individuals to reflect on the Lenten journey, the centerpiece of the Christian tradition, and to dedicate the chapel’s Stations of the Cross, which depicts the final hours of Jesus and allows the faithful to walk in the footsteps of Jesus.

Sandra Rivera of the Omega Liturgical Dancers of the Middle Collegiate Church in New York City guided participants in the Stations of the Cross, which Sister Deignan calls “a movement  of prayer” and a “processional experience.”

“Friday’s concert was a wonderful opportunity to reflect on the events leading up to Jesus’ crucifixion and death,” said Sarah Heiman, who serves as Sacred Heart University's Campus Minister for Education and Spiritual Life. “The musicians provided beautiful accompaniment to this reflection and helped lead the community gather in prayer and worship.”

“The use of candlelight and simple movement enriched the meditative music and developed a prayerful atmosphere that helped those gathered to reflect not only on God’s abundant love, but on how we are called to help our brothers and sisters throughout the world,” said Ms. Heiman.
Ms. Heiman said that Sister Deignan's music invited individuals to see the Stations through another perspective and "to think about how Jesus’ friends and family felt as they watched the events occurring."
"Underlying it all was the virtue of hope, and an invitation to connect the Stations to our lives today. Because of all of this, I think people definitely found a deeper meaning in the Stations through the concert," added Ms. Heiman.
Ed Dobransky, who serves as Manager of Support Services at Sacred Heart's Campus Operations, calls Sister Deignan's music "sacred and prayerful."  Mr. Dobransky, who helped organize Friday's event, is a long-time admirer of Sister Diegnan's ministry and worships to her music at services at the Benedictine Grange located in nearby Redding where Sister Diegnan's Schola Ministry flourishes.
Sister Diegnan received a Master's degree in Spirituality Studies and her doctorate in Historical Theology from Fordham University, where she studied with her mentor, the late theologian, Father Thomas Berry, one of the great inspirations of her life and ministry.
Her work is devoted to transmitting the spiritual and intellectual legacies of Thomas Merton and her mentor in a variety of academic, artistic and pastoral formats. Under Father Berry's direction, she began work on her first book, Christ Spirit: The Eschatology of Shaker Christianity. Her later work has focused on the wisdom legacy of Thomas Merton, whose writings on nature she edited in the book: When The Trees Say Nothing (2003), and Thomas Merton: A Book of Hours (2007) now in its seventh printing.

Sister Deignan is a Professor of Religious Studies at Iona College in New Rochelle, N.Y., and the founder and director of the Iona Spirituality Institute.
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