||Hailey and Linda Braunsky, members of St. Albert the Great Parish in Sun Prairie, play Advent Bingo at an intergenerational FLAME event at the church November 18. The program, which this month focused on the season of Advent, brings together people of all ages for fun and catechesis. (Catholic Herald photo/Kat Wagner)
SUN PRAIRIE -- The choir at St Albert the Great Parish has been practicing since September for their upcoming Candles & Carols, a cantata that, with its accompanying narrative, tells the story of Christ from the prophets all the way to his birth in Bethlehem.
And that’s choir — as in, one choir, one parish, one Church.
They may have many weekend Masses to each sing at, but all of the choir members come together once a week to practice in just one of the ways that St. Albert the Great Parish is striving towards a greater sense of unity. The Candles & Carols event is another.
The choir, which will also be performing several of the songs a few days earlier at a choral fundraiser for the local food pantry and at the 9 p.m. Mass on Christmas Eve, won’t be performing alone at the event December 6. Along with the instrumentalists, the choir will also be assisted by young people taking on roles to flesh out the narrative of the coming of Christ, telling the stories of the Bible to serve as a reminder of the reason for the Advent season. Throughout the performance, which features arrangements that often call to mind many familiar Christmastime carols, they will light candles to represent the coming of Christ.
“Children will love it — it’ll be really neat,” said Cecile Gregory, the director of liturgy and music at the parish.
But the cantata won’t be just for the young. “I can’t wait to see it,” she confessed. “I’ll finally get to see the costumes.”
Bringing generations together
Candles & Carols
What: Telling the story from the prophets to the birth of Christ, this concert and narrative will help people of all ages prepare for the coming of Christ.
When: December 6, 4 p.m.
Where: St. Albert the Great Church, 2420 St. Albert Dr., Sun Prairie
*church is accessible
Intergenerational unity is a common theme in the parish. Taking its cue from the Generations of Faith program that has blossomed in parishes around the diocese, the parish has established the FLAME (Faith Learning Around Multi-generational Experiences )program — Generations of Faith on Fire.
Serving as a total parish faith formation program, FLAME gathers people of all ages to learn about various aspects of the Catholic faith. The parish recently held a FLAME event that looked at the various aspects of the Advent season.
At the event, families and individuals visited different stations to learn about Advent traditions, the Advent calendar, O Antiphons (seven prayers often used in daily prayer during the Advent season), and Advent stories. They played Advent bingo, which brought up and explained many other aspects of Catholic faith, such as the Magnificat, various saint and Marian feast days during Advent, and the role of the prophet Isaiah.
They made Advent wreaths and created the parts for Jesse Trees, a common Advent tradition to help children count down the days to Christmas and learn about the stories leading up to Christ’s birth.
Creative approach to learning
The program calls for a “big production” each time, said Susan Leet, youth minister at the parish. There’s a lot of work involved to make sure that it’s interesting and engaging and catechizing, with age-appropriate workshops.
“You have to be creative,” she said. “And if you want to engage adults, it’s much more than handing them a book. You have to make sure they’re getting their Catholic roots.”
But the payoff is fully formed Catholics.
“It’s been great because so many parents come,” Leet said. “It’s a way for parents to participate in ways they wouldn’t otherwise.”
Even single people and couples without children come, she said. This has a twofold benefit: the adults learn about their faith, and younger people see adults learning about their faith. “It sends a message to the younger generation that you’re to learn about your faith your whole life,” she said.
Which leads back to the choir.
On November 18, as the FLAME program occupied many of the rooms around the parish center, the choir gathered for their weekly rehearsal in the church. The group of adults, some older and some closer to high school or college age, were learning to harmonize and blend in their vocal praise in preparation for a program to teach others about their faith.
“Oh, they just love it,” said Gregory. “They’re growing, and it’s a beautiful thing. This is the first time they’re molding and they’re becoming a real unit.”