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Angelic voices among us

If it's Advent, the Daughters of St. Paul choir is travelling around the eastern United States giving Christmas concerts and delighting audiences at parishes and schools. The choir has been performing for 15 years, but this was their first stop in the Arlington Diocese. They were welcomed by an enthusiastic audience ready for a Christmas celebration.

Sister Margaret Michael Gillis, from the Pauline Books and Media store in Alexandria, welcomed the audience and introduced Sister Margaret Timothy Sato, provincial superior of the United States. Sister Margaret made opening remarks and introduced the members of the choir: Sisters Helena Burns, Julia M. Darrenkamp, Tracey Dugas, Bridget C. Ellis, Anne Joan Flanagan, Raymond M. Gerard, Rebecca M. Hoffart, Sean Marie D. Mayer, Bernadette Reis and Nancy M. Usselman.

Choir member Sister Tracey Dugas spoke of the evolving mission of the Daughters of St. Paul and how they've moved from press, film and radio to Web-based communication.

"How many of you have heard of Twitter or Facebook?" she asked the audience.

A good number raised their hands.

"(We're) happy to communicate God's message of love," she said.

Sister Tracy reminded the audience that they only do this concert series once a year during Advent.

"We do have day jobs," she laughed.

The repertoire of songs ranged from classics such as "O Holy Night," "Little Drummer Boy" and "Good Christians all Rejoice," to songs not usually associated with Christmas such as the moving "Angels Among Us," by the country group Alabama. The sisters walked out to the pews to sing to the audience.

"Oh I believe there are angels among us/ sent down to us from somewhere up above/ they come to you and me in our darkest hours/ to show us how to live/ to teach us how to give/ to guide us with a light of love."

The lyrics brought tears to many at the concert.

Sister Anne Joan Flanagan followed up with a beautiful rendition of "Oh Holy Night."

The choir mixed it up a bit with secular hits like "Winter Wonderland" and "Silver Bells/Jingle Bells," for which the sisters donned red scarves and gloves.

"This is our one costume change," said Sister Tracey.

For the finale, the choir invited children from the audience to join them in singing Elton John and Bernie Tobin's "Step into Christmas." Audience members left their pews and joined the sisters and the children clapping and raising their arms. The audience demanded an encore and they received one.

Members of the audience left the church filled with Christmas spirit.

Father John Cregan, pastor of Blessed Sacrament, was pleased with the concert and said he hoped to see them back next year.

The choir finishes its tour in Massachusetts with three concerts in Attleboro and Jamaica Plains.

Hopefully the angels will be among us in Virginia again next Advent.

© Arlington Catholic Herald 2009