Irish Tenor Mark Forrest to Perform Benefit Concert

"The good Lord has blessed my ministry," said international Irish tenor and St. Elizabeth Ann Seton parishioner Mark Forrest, 28, of his music career. He will be performing an upcoming charity concert at his parish to benefit the neighboring Our Lady of Angels (OLA) Conference Society of St. Vincent de Paul. During the last seven years, Forrest has released five recordings and played all over the world, in everything from small halls to huge outdoor arenas. He has performed for both Mother Teresa and Pope John Paul II, as well as at the White House. Profiled in the March issue of The Washingtonian magazine, he is well-known to those outside of this area. His audience can number from 500 to 15,000 people, and he can command large fees for his performances. It is crucial, however, he believes, to give to the Church and community. "It’s so wonderful of Mark to give this concert and be such a strong supporter of the Vincent de Paul Society," said Father Francis Peffley, associate pastor of Our Lady of Angels Church and concert chairperson. "This occasion is a great opportunity to raise money for a very worthwhile organization that incorporates the corporal works of mercy." The St. Vincent de Paul Society has been in existence for 154 years, helping local elderly, incarcerated, infirm, needy, and sick, as well victims of natural disasters. The 32-year-old OLA Conference is one of 10 in the Arlington diocese. One of the organizers of-the local benefit is the Forrest’s friend-of-the-family and fellow Irishman John McNeil. Forrest has high praise for his devotion to the work of the Society. McNeil has been an integral part of the OLA Conference for twenty years, serving as their president for six years, and currently as the first vice president. During the last fiscal year, the OLA St. Vincent de Paul Society raised over $917,000, logged 30,392 volunteer hours and assisted almost 22,000 families. Forrest said he wanted to give this concert for two reasons. He has come to realize that the OLA Conference has assisted some of those he knows personally. "It has helped out friends in financial difficulties," said Forrest, and he wanted to increase awareness of the organization’s wide-ranging benevolence. He also hopes to draw younger volunteers to the group, for continuing the Conference’s work in the years ahead. His goal is to raise $20,000 for the agency. Forrest was born and raised in Dublin. Even though he’d had some musical success in Ireland, his career in the United States was started when he came at 18 for a summer job, painting the Washington Archdiocesan offices. Cardinal James Hickey heard him singing at daily Mass and was so impressed that he lined up an audition for him at Catholic University, which awarded Forrest a full musical scholarship. Forrest’s sweetheart, Muriel, now his wife, also from Dublin, received a scholarship at Trinity College to study English Literature at the same time. His performance repertoire includes mostly traditional Irish songs, interspersed with Catholic hymns, Broadway show tunes and an occasional joke. There is always a moral theme running through his concert. Pastors have told him that his performances are not just an entertaining evening, but a spiritual renewal for the parish. With 68 venues a year, Forrest and his back-up band, "Classical Inspirations," have a heavy schedule. He sees his most important role, though, as a husband and father, and makes sure he spends sufficient time with his wife, Muriel, and their children. "Family is everything," Forrest said recently from his home in Lake Ridge, "not finances." Their oldest son is Mark, and their second is John Patrick, who is disabled with peroxisomal disorder. Their third son, Francesco, died last August of a heart condition at five days old. Even though the Forrests knew of his circumstance before he was born, they refused to consider terminating the pregnancy. "God has given us the gift of life and we’ll protect that life as long as we have it," they told the doctors. Their account is portrayed in the Fall 1997 issue of Medjugorie Magazine. On bearing the unique burdens of one’s life, Forrest quotes his father, who said, "God gives us custom crosses." Forrest’s concert, "A Musical Celebration," to benefit the Our Lady of Angles Conference Society of St. Vincent de Paul, will be held on March 29, at St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Church, 12805 Valley Wood Dr., Lake Ridge, at 7 p.m. For information on ticket sales call 703/730-2476 or 703/323-5271. The Society cam be reached at 703/491-1900. Copyright ?1998 Arlington Catholic Herald, Inc. All rights reserved.

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