Have you ever wanted to travel the world and see just how Christmas is celebrated in other nations? Perhaps you’d like to hear Christmas hymns from Canada, Mexico, South America, Africa, Russia, and Western Europe? Rather than getting yourself a passport and taking a world tour, you can witness of it this weekend at one parish in the Chicago area.
A few weeks ago, I opened one of my articles by discussing the incredible diversity of ethnic cuisines that were celebrated at a food festival at St. Denis Catholic Church at 8301 S. St. Louis Ave. in Chicago. This week, I’m doing a similar focus on cultural diversity at one parish, but on Christmas music. To kick off the Advent season, this is going to become a twice weekly publication and focus on more local content for Chicago Catholics than ever before. My Examiner column will be published regularly on Tuesdays and Friday’s. My inaugural Friday column debuts today, and this time the focus is on St. Victor’s Catholic Church at 553 Hirsch Avenue, Calumet City, IL. The idea for this column comes from an email sent by the Isaac Hecker Regional Young Adult Ministry Center. Thanks for the heads up!
St. Victor’s has been around since 1925 (and has been at its current location since Christmas 1928), but its modern focus on angelic concerts and beautiful liturgies really began in the 1970s as is worked to expand its base in the community. As the parish website notes, the congregation consists of a large group of African-American and 1st & 2nd generation Hispanic members, Caucasian worshipers of Polish , Italian, German, Slavic and Irish ancestry that have been in the Chicago area for many generations, as well as Nigerian immigrants, and “a sprinkling of Vietnamese and Bosnian refugees over the years”. It is very reflective of the demographics of Calumet City, Illinois as a whole, a far south Chicago suburban that is around 60% African-American, 20%-25% Hispanic, and the remainder a mix of Caucasian and many other ethnicities. Like St. Denis, this parish has integrated those radically different ethnic groups by celebrating and preserving each of their cultural contributions to Chicago.
Over the past four decades, this has been reflected the most thru their various choirs and critically acclaimed Directors of Music. The parish is unique that the musical talents of St. Victor developed into three very different separate choirs spanning 30+ years, including the Glory, Festival (Contemporary), and Revelation Choirs. Today, they have integrated those choirs into a single entity for Sunday masses, and the present choir has over 70 members and is comprised of members from all three former choirs. This range of musical tastes and abilities produces an “incredibly angelic sound” and is accompanied by a masterful church pipe organ. On Sundays, St. Victor’s features Hispanic hymns, American folk songs, African music, Polish devotional melodies, as well as many others. The various types of liturgies and services offered at St. Victor’s also reflect the varying ethnic makeup of the parish.
To celebrate 80 years, St. Victor’s established a Christmas Music celebration, a tradition that continues to this day. This Sunday, Dec. 4, at 4:00 p.m., St. Victor’s will celebrate their 11th Annual “Christmas Around The World” Concert. Choir Director Al Jackson will lead the group through various songs and carols from North and South America, Hispaniola, Africa, Russia, and Europe. The highpoint of the concert is enchanting Bach Cantata “How Brightly Shines the Morning Star” piece, performed with orchestra and soloists. The audience is also invited to lend their voices to the singing at various points during the concert. The 70-member South Suburban Chorale and orchestra are an impressive duo in acoustic spaces of St. Victor Catholic Church. St. Victor’s is also including the Ariel Ramirez Argentine folk mass Mesa Creole with Fr. Alejandro Marci, Associate Pastor of St. Victor’s. Dr. Michael Koller, Director of Music of St. Victor’s, is organizing the event. The parish describes their 11th annual concert as “featuring Christmas music of all ages” and admission is 100% FREE to anyone who wishes to attend. The address is:
Christmas Around The World Concert
December 4, 2011 at 4:00 pm
St. Victor Catholic Church
553 Hirsch Avenue
Calumet City, IL 60409
Today, St. Victor’s is lead by Fr. Leonard Dubi, the head pastor of the parish. Although the concert is free, good will offerings are accepted and visitors are encouraged t o check out the Isaac Hecker Regional Young Adult Ministry Center on facebook for future updates. Those who have questions or would like more information can contact Terry Shelley at (708) 756-9752 or email@example.com
Even if you don’t come for the music, St. Victor’s is well worth the trip for any south side Catholic in the Chicago area. Like St. Denis, the parish offers a living, breathing example of Catholicism in Chicago being truly “Catholic” and bringing people together across different cultures through their universal belief in Jesus Christ. St. Victor’s has an array of religion art, devotionals, prayer groups, and hospitality programs that show firsthand why this parish has shined brightly for over 80 years in Calumet City. If you can’t come in person, at least check out the parish website. And for you Catholic readers on the north side grumbling about the distance, send me something about what your parishes are doing for the Christmas season! You can’t expect your local Catholic examiner to know about everything.