Click here to see COVID-19 updates


Catholic School Choirs Compete in “[email protected]

May 26, 2016 | posted by Veronica Montalvo, M.Ed.

Topics: Catholic Schools

Catholic School Choirs Compete in “Sing@theCross”

Photo Above: Students from Holy Name Catholic School singing “Song of Peace” conducted by Teresa Jarzombeck.

God has bestowed upon his people the gift of song. God dwells within each human person, in the place where music takes its source. Indeed, God, the giver of song, is present whenever his people sing his praises (USCCB Sing to the Lord, 1).  The Department of Catholic Schools held the first Catholic Choir contest in the Archdiocese on Saturday, April 30, called “[email protected].” In this contest, hosted by Antonian College Preparatory High School, students praised and worshiped through song in choral ensembles as an avenue for students to share their spiritual gifts.

Catholic educational institutions have a special obligation toward music and the Sacred Liturgy. Catholic schools are called to foster the joy of singing and making music, to cultivate the repertoire of sacred music inherited from the past, and to engage the creative efforts of contemporary composers and the diverse repertoires of various cultures. In this way, students will be introduced to music they will sing throughout their life, and they will be better prepared for their eventual role as adult members of the worshiping assembly (USCCB Sing to the Lord, 16-17).

Religious music is, we might say, the earthly expression of a given culture’s faith in Christ; liturgical music is the sacramental expression of Christ and the true nature of the Church. Religious music comes from human hearts yearning for God; liturgical music comes from Christ’s heart, the heart of the Church, longing for us ( What is sacred music? It is the great treasury of music, written over the ages by the greatest composers for use in the sung liturgy of the Roman Catholic Church, beginning with the Gregorian melodies and continuing on through the polyphonic pieces of the middle ages and the renaissance, up to the orchestral settings of the last three centuries and into our own time. It is simple for the singing congregation and more elaborate as the degree of musicianship increases (Schuler, 1991).

Choral Conductors from across the Archdiocese of San Antonio Catholic Schools selected their performance music that would best fit the “Jubilee of Mercy” theme. The three category options to compete in were: A Capella, Accompaniment (one instrument), and Contemporary.

Once on stage, ensembles were heard and judged by three notable music experts. Lee Gwozdz was recently appointed American Federation of Pueri Cantores President. He serves as Diocesan Director of Liturgy and Director of Music for the Diocese of Corpus Christi - Corpus Christi Cathedral, Corpus Christi, Texas. The Cathedral Youth Choir, under Lee’s direction, was chosen as lead choir for the International Federation of Pueri Congress held recently in Rome, Italy. He was chosen to conduct the 500-voiced choir for the Papal Mass held in San Antonio, in 1987. In 1993, he served as conductor of the Papal Mass held in Denver, conducting over 700 young singers for the International World Youth Day Festival.

Lena Gokelman is a life-long pastoral musician. Currently, Lena serves on the Board of Directors for the National Association of Pastoral Musicians. She is a member of the American Guild of Organists and serves as Placement Coordinator for the chapter. Presently, she holds the position of Director of Music Ministries and university organist for the University of the Incarnate Word - University Mission and Ministry. On the national, regional, and local levels, Lena has been a clinician for the National Association of Pastoral Musicians, the Southwest Liturgical Conference, the Johannes Hofinger Conference, the Diocese of Metuchen, NJ, and Archdiocese of San Antonio. 

Brother Michael Sullivan, S.M., D.M.A., currently serves as Music Department Chair at St. Mary’s University. As a professed Marianist, he also takes pride in teaching students about the Marianist charism and spirit. Before joining the faculty at St. Mary’s University in 1994, Sullivan taught at an inner-city Catholic high school in East St. Louis, Ill., for 14 years. Sullivan teaches St. Mary’s Core courses, as well as music history and performance labs.

The contest was a melodious exhibition of talent, skill, and artistry. Selections ranged from Jesu Alvator Mundi by Menegali, to single instrument accompaniment in Come to the Water by John Foley, S.J., and incorporating simple choreography with a contemporary religious song such as How Great is our God by Chris Tomlin.

The schools that participated in the inaugural [email protected] contest were: Antonian Middle School, Holy Name Catholic School, Our Lady of Perpetual Help Catholic School, Rolling Hills Catholic School, Sacred Heart School (Del Rio,) St. Anthony Catholic School, St. Anthony Catholic High School, St. John Berchmans Catholic School, St. John Bosco Catholic School, St. Leo the Great Catholic School, St. Margaret Mary Catholic School, St. Pius X Catholic School, St. Thomas More Catholic School, and The Atonement Academy.

Throughout the Year of Mercy, many Catholic Schools have been focused on the Corporal and Spiritual Works of Mercy. The contest offered an opportunity for students to come together and think about their role as disciples of Christ. The Choir of St. Leo the Great Catholic School placed 1st with their performance of a school favorite “I Just Want to be a Sheep.” Drawing inspiration directly from the Year of Mercy logo, “the song enabled students to channel their energy and enthusiasm into a joyous proclamation of their desire to follow Jesus,” says Choral Conductor Aurora Romero.

Through sacred music, the goal is to come into a deeper relationship with Jesus Christ and to reflect upon our call as missionary disciples. We are simply instruments of the Lord and may he continue to bless us with talented music teachers in our Catholic schools who can bestow a love of our faith in a tune of a song.