Diocesan Choir presents Lessons & Carols Print E-mail
Around the Diocese
Written by Dick Jones, For the Catholic Herald   
Thursday, Dec. 06, 2018 -- 12:00 AM

mary ann harr
Mary Ann Harr

MADISON -- With flute, harp, and grand organ, the Madison Diocesan Choir and director Dr. Patrick Gorman will celebrate Advent with a Lessons & Carols concert on Sunday, Dec. 16, always a joyful event as Christmas draws near, although a sad occasion for many this year.

On November 24, Bishop Robert C. Morlino died suddenly at the age of 71. He was laid to rest on December 4. Since his appointment as bishop of the Diocese of Madison in 2003, he presided at nearly every Lessons & Carols, and he was very supportive of the choir’s musical ministry.

The free Lessons & Carols service begins in the Bishop O’Donnell Chapel at 4 p.m., Sunday, Dec. 16, at Holy Name Heights, the former Bishop O’Connor Catholic Pastoral Center, located at 702 S. High Point Rd. in Madison. Plenty of parking is available, and the building is wheelchair accessible.

While admission is free, guests are encouraged to bring a non-perishable food item as a donation to the Catholic Multicultural Center food pantry. A freewill offering to support the Diocesan Choir Youth Scholarship initiative also would be greatly appreciated.

A second service will be held at 3 p.m. on Sunday, Jan. 6, at Our Lady of the Assumption Parish, 2222 Shopiere Rd., in Beloit. The parish choir will join the diocesan choir. Admission is free. The diocesan choir would greatly appreciate contributions to support its youth scholarship initiative.

Reflecting on the bishop

Reflecting on Bishop Morlino’s passing, Gorman agreed the patriarch had his critics, and he acknowledged his own disagreements and lively discussions with the bishop. “Some really nice debates,” said Gorman, adding with a laugh, “I never won one.”

But those debates always ended amicably, and Gorman came to know Bishop Morlino as a kind and generous man of strong faith, one who unbeknown to many, visited nursing homes every Christmas. He said Bishop Morlino paid him a surprise hospital visit following surgery a year ago.

“Both Denise and I thought that certainly was above and beyond the call of duty,” Gorman said. “I was always touched by that.”

And so for Gorman and others, this is a time of sadness. “It’s certainly sad, certainly unexpected,” Gorman said. “As with any death, especially a sudden one, there’s sadness in that you have no chance to say goodbye.”

And yet, there is reason to rejoice.

“He’s about the most joyful person I ever met, and I said this to him a number of times, that to me was just a sign of faith,” Gorman said. “He could have all kinds of things going on, and he would have a smile, he would talk, and not just be kind of artificially upbeat, but truly joyful.

“And so I can’t help but think that joy that was in his heart he is now experiencing to some other exponential degree. So that really gives me a good feeling about it.”

The loss of a friend, relative, family member, loved one especially, is always hard during the holidays, Gorman said.

Gorman paused during a recent interview, then said: “I always wonder, do they celebrate Christmas in heaven? I don’t know! Every day is Christmas, you know. Well, he’s going to find out. So that’s kind of the way I’m thinking about it. It will be melancholy, especially at Lessons & Carols. But his faith was very strong, very positive, so I think he’s going to receive a good reward.”

Bishop supportive of choir

“Bishop Morlino was exceptionally supportive of the choir,” said Gorman, who noted the bishop often expressed his appreciation for the choir at liturgical services, be it Chrism Mass, ordination, Lessons & Carols, or other diocesan events.

“And it wasn’t just a secondary thing for him,” said Gorman, also director of the Diocesan Office of Worship. “I think he really saw it as something that aided the worship at diocesan Masses. He just saw it as an integral part of the worship. One of his big things was beauty in the liturgy, and he felt the choir added quite a bit of beauty, and certainly, that’s what we strive for, too.”

Much as he supported and valued the choir’s important mission, Bishop Morlino left the music to Gorman, with one exception, and even then, it was more a suggestion if even that. Some years ago, Bishop Morlino stopped by Gorman’s office, as he often did, for an informal chat.

“He rarely asked for any music, but he just asked if I knew of this Polish hymn,” Gorman said. “He said it was Pope John Paul II’s favorite and that he and Pope John Paul II had kind of established a friendship, based on their Polish ancestry. Bishop Morlino has Polish ancestry.”

The hymn, Serdeczna Matko (Beloved Mother), is considered a favorite among all Poles. Gorman said he once sung it in English and only recently found an arrangement for harp and choir.

In selecting Lessons & Carols music weeks ago, he decided to include it. It follows the Fifth Lesson, the Angel Gabriel, sent by God, tells the Blessed Virgin Mary she will bear the Christ Child Jesus. Bishop Morlino would take great joy in hearing it, he thought.

“It’s a beautiful lullaby, beautiful and rich,” Gorman said. “We’ll certainly be thinking of him when we sing it.”

Musical guests on harp, flute

Frequent guest Mary Ann Harr will accompany the choir on harp for this and other selections. Also appearing as musical guest is Mary Wilkosz on flute. Mary Wilkosz has often accompanied the choir at Chrism Mass, ordination, and other services, but this will be her first Lessons & Carols appearance.

Pairing harp and flute with the restored vintage pipe organ in accompanying the choir creates an ensemble that Gorman is especially eager for all to hear and enjoy. Lessons & Carols last year was the first time many heard the Aeolian-Skinner pipe organ. As Gorman described it, the ensemble is another first, and the organ and harp


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