Hymn Sing for the Year of Mercy being held at the cathedral

By Becky Aubut
Anchor Staff

FALL RIVER, Mass. — The Hymn Sing for the Year of Mercy, a free music event to celebrate the Jubilee Year of Mercy, will take place at the Cathedral of St. Mary of the Assumption, 327 Second Street in Fall River, on September 25 at 3 p.m. 

The Cathedral is extending an invitation for those attending to enter through the Holy Door with family and friends. 

“I had attended hymn sings in the past, and it’s really uplifting to hear a large community of people singing in an occasion that’s not a concert, not a Liturgy, but a way to pray through music,” said Madeleine Grace, director of music at the Cathedral. “Hymns are beautiful, poetic prayers, and when I thought about all the lovely hymns we have that concentrate on the theme of mercy, I thought that it would be a wonderful occasion to do this kind of event.”

Grace recalled the Cathedral’s organ dedication concert in July, which also had hymns, and she felt those hymns “really raised the roof; it really was the most exciting part of the whole event. Not that the organ music wasn’t, but just having everyone in the congregation who loved music singing at the top of their voices. It was uplifting.”

With so many wonderful choirs in the diocese, Grace said she had a difficult time trying to choose who should come, finally deciding to begin close by, and extend the invitation to choirs in the Fall River deanery: “I thought if I opened up to everyone in the diocese, it might become more than I could handle.”

The choirs that are participating are Our Lady of Grace in Westport, led by Claudette Petit; Our Lady of Mount Carmel in New Bedford, led by Shirley Guerreiro, a member of the Cathedral choir who asked to bring her choir for the event; St. John of God in Somerset, led by Tobias Monte; Holy Name in Fall River, led by Erik Thompson; St. Joseph in Fall River, led by Adam Morin; Cathedral Hispanic Community Choir, led by Waldemar Rivera; and the Cathedral Choir and Fall River Diocesan Choir, led by Grace.

 The idea is for each choir to present one or two songs in their personal repertoire, and then alternate with familiar hymns concentrating on the Year of Mercy for the entire congregation to be able to participate and sing along. One of the centerpieces is the ‘Our Father’ by Malotte, said Grace, adding, “I look forward to hearing all those voices in the combined presentation of three selections: ‘God, Full of Mercy’ by Lucien Deiss, ‘A Universal Blessing’ by Alice Parker and ‘Our Father’ by Malotte.”

There will also be presentations in Portuguese and Spanish. Organists have also been invited to each play a hymn during the event; “I felt it would give them an opportunity to play the relatively new pipe organ,” said Grace. “The music concentrates on God’s mercy but also how we include Mary in her role through singing ‘Magnificat’ and ‘Salve Regina,’ and how we can extend mercy to others with the singing version of the ‘Beatitudes.’”

It’s a great opportunity to take advantage of the Cathedral being open for those wanting to walk through the Holy Door. The Holy Door is also accessible at the usual Mass times on weekends on Saturday at 4 p.m. and at 7 p.m. (Brazilian), Sunday at 10 a.m. and at 12:30 p.m. (Spanish).

Pope Francis directed cathedrals around the world to open their Holy Doors so that symbolic pilgrimage could be experienced by the faithful without needing to go to Rome. 

When he opened the Holy Door at Rome’s Basilica of St. John Lateran last December, the pope said, “It begins a time of great forgiveness. It is the Jubilee of Mercy,” adding, “God does not love rigidity. He is tender.”

These doors are symbolic of God’s mercy. The jubilee is “extraordinary” in the sense that it does not follow the usual Catholic practice of having jubilee years at 25-year intervals. This jubilee coincides with the 50th anniversary of the closing of the Second Vatican Council, which sought to proclaim Gove’s love to modern society.

“The official hymn by Paul Inwood was composed for the Holy Year, and I remember when the bishop opened the door at the beginning of the year, we all sang it,” said Grace. “It joined you to the Holy Door with the world and in Rome, and thinking about how entering through the narrow gates, you’re making this effort to observe this time of prayer and to receive the Sacrament of Reconciliation.”

This event is celebrating the Year of Mercy and to have it done in song is something different, said Grace, adding, “It’s for anybody who likes to sing hymns or listen to hymns. We often say that our hymns are prayers and are beautifully composed. Many are contemporary but many have lasted for hundreds of years; we don’t want to lose track that these are prayers.”

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