Sacred music sung by choirs of sisters continues to top the classical music charts, with the late-summer release of Mater Eucharistiae by the Dominican Sisters of Mary, Mother of the Eucharist of Ann Arbor, Mich. (Order the CD at SistersofMary.org.) Twenty sisters sing on the album, which features songs in both English and Latin, some a cappella and some with organ and trumpet.
Three joyful sisters in the Ann Arbor monastery shared their thoughts about the album with the Register recently: Sister Joseph Andrew Bogdanowicz, vicaress general and one of the foundresses of the order; Sister Mary David Klocek, the novice mistress; and Sister Maria Suso Rispoli, who sang on the CD and recently appeared on The American Bible Challenge.
Sister Joseph Andrew, how did the sisters decide to record a CD?
Every Sunday, wherever our sisters are, vespers are open to the public. People pray the Office and the Rosary with us. Monica and Kevin Fitzgibbons (founders of De Montfort Music) went to vespers in Phoenix [another location of the community]. They loved the sound of the sisters singing. They asked us if we would be interested in doing a recording.
The singing is a part of our prayer life. It’s certainly important to a community whose roots are in the monasticism of the Middle Ages. Music is always a special part of our prayer life. So we agreed to do it. If it comes to you, and it’s good, you haven’t any reason not to. It’s a gift from God. We would do this for holy Mother Church. When they came out here (Ann Arbor) with the equipment, we did it in three days.
That was quite a short time for such a magnificent recording. Anything memorable happen?
The second day of recording, we were practicing the Te Deum at the time Pope Francis was being elected. [Among the times the Te Deum is sung in thanksgiving to God are at the election of a pope, a religious profession and a bishop’s consecration.] Someone poked her head in and said, "White smoke!" So it was very appropriate we were singing that hymn while Pope Francis was being elected!
Pope Francis is very Marian, and so is your community. How did you choose the theme and songs?
We came up simultaneously with the name Mater Eucharistiae. It’s the name of our newsletter and our name. That set the tone, that we would want Marian and Eucharistic hymns, being as how we have in our community a daily hour of Eucharistic adoration. … We wrote down the music we would want given to the world, so the world would come to love and appreciate this music and have it in their homes.
We came up with 15. There are 15 Mysteries of the Rosary, now 20, but we said, "Let’s stop at 15 [hymns and songs]." It came together quickly.
The average age of the sisters is 29 to 30 years old. It’s a young community. So our zeal is on fire. We would like to get the whole world saved. Through this music, we can go into peoples’ homes and cars, bring Mary and Christ to their hearts, and help them pray and calm down from all the stress life is filled with today.
Where did the three original hymns on the album come from?
Sister Mary Gabriel wrote The Annunciation, and I wrote Holy Mary, Mother of God and I Am the Hands of Mary. These three fit the particular feel for this CD. They are fruits of meditation on St. Louis de Montfort’s Total Consecration to Mary that’s very special to us — we all make the consecration — and also to John Paul II, his Totus Tuus. That consecration is again reflected in the name and our community.
Very strongly we believe we need to be the spiritual mothers for the world today. The world doesn’t value motherhood, and that’s one of the biggest problems in the world. We very much place ourselves in Mary’s hands, so she can give us that spiritual motherhood so we can bring souls to Christ, her Son. Mary, being Mother of the incarnate Son of God, is reflected in our selection of these particular 15 hymns.
Sister Mary David, do you see this related to your community’s teaching?
I think so, but in a way differently than teaching in the classroom. The community was founded in response to John Paul II’s call for the New Evangelization. And Benedict spoke about this: that beauty is going to be the way to peoples’ hearts and bringing them to Christ. This CD is a part of that "preaching the word," but in a musical way, through the beauty of truth.
Sister Maria Suso, as one of the singers, what were some highlights for you?
I recently made my first vows, and so I was very conscious that this was part of my gift of myself to Christ, and this was the way he was asking me to participate in the New Evangelization.
The Pange Lingua was the strongest experience I’ve had of being one voice with the sisters. And because it’s sung Holy Thursday and our community is so devoted to the Rosary and Holy Eucharist, to be able to sing the Pange Lingua so beautifully was an amazing experience.
The Ave Maris Stella was the last song we recorded. For me, it was the crowning moment. We were all tired, but we were all in high spirits. Mother Assumpta [Long] walked into the room, and the producer asked her if she’d like to hear the Ave Maris Stella. Technically, we were done. They recorded anyway, and we were able to sing the Ave Maris Stella for Mother, probably the most beautifully we had sung it. It was great to be able to offer that to Jesus and to Mother Assumpta, who had done so much for us.
Any similarity between this recording and being a contestant on The American Bible Challenge game show?
Everything we do in the Church is part of the New Evangelization, to bring souls to Christ in ways the culture can receive him now: in that case, through a game show, and in this case, through bringing music to the world not often heard outside the walls of a convent.
As Catholics, we believe that God is the author and source of all truth, goodness and beauty. Beauty draws us out of ourselves when we contemplate things that are beautiful, and it directs us to God. Not everyone will be Catholic who listens. But everyone will be able to experience the peace and joy that comes from listening to something that’s beautiful and is of God.
Read the full interview
Joseph Pronechen is a
Register staff writer.