Mass for Peace draws 500 in Ithaca - Catholic Courier

Mass for Peace draws 500 in Ithaca

Based on the crowded pews at Ithaca’s Immaculate Conception Church on Sept. 21, the desire for world peace appears widespread among Tompkins County Catholics.
Approximately 500 worshipers united with Bishop Matthew H. Clark for an evening liturgy acknowledging the International Day of Peace, which fell on the same date. The Mass for Peace marked a first-time collaboration of the seven Tompkins Planning Group affiliates: Immaculate Conception and St. Catherine of Siena in Ithaca; All Saints, Lansing; Holy Cross, Dryden/Freeville; St. Anthony, Groton; and the campus ministries of Ithaca College and Cornell University.
Unity was particularly evident in the musical selections, which included "The Canticle of the Turning," "We are Called," "Blessed Are They" and the concluding "Let There Be Peace on Earth." Jeanne Pellerin, music director at Holy Cross Parish, said she especially enjoyed "Lord, Make Me an Instrument of Your Peace," a Stephen L. Lawrence version of the Prayer of St. Francis which was offered as a meditation after Communion.
"From the comments during our reception after Mass, it had touched many people," Pellerin said of the hymn. "I think that since the words were very familiar, this new rendition allowed all to focus on the message as well as enjoy the beauty of the music itself."
Pellerin noted a healthy turnout of approximately 20 musicians from the smaller parishes of Holy Cross, St. Anthony and All Saints who joined in a choir of some 50 singers and instrumentalists from the area’s faith communities. They performed under the direction of Sherry Scanza, music director at St. Catherine of Siena, having prepared for the Mass throughout the summer. Pellerin remarked on "the great sound, with all the harmonies, that came forth from such a number of singers especially when one is used to a small choir of eight or nine singers. And Sherry had made us all very conscious of thinking of the meaning of the words that we were singing, and to let that come out in how we sang."
Scanza commented on a "wonderful spirit of cooperation" among the musicians, saying this sentiment was a continuation of the unified effort from "The Weeping Tree" this past March 20. That Lenten concert, also performed at Immaculate Conception, featured musicians from several area Catholic and non-Catholic churches.
"After that performance, we all agreed that we wanted to continue working on collaborative projects. The Mass for Peace was a perfect opportunity," Scanza said, adding that the music was so good on Sept. 21 that "it was a challenge to stand in front to conduct the choir as I really wanted to just shut my eyes and listen."
Gary Vrabel, music director at Immaculate Conception, added that he was touched by the presence of Bishop Clark as celebrant and homilist. He noted how the bishop led into themes of war and violence by describing a personal incident that day — somebody cutting him off in traffic — to illustrate how easily conflict can escalate and the importance of holding negative emotions in check.
"The message was very well delivered," Vrabel said. "He did a wonderful job."
Sister Mary O’Brien, CSJ, who serves as St. Catherine’s temporary pastoral administrator, said Bishop Clark had been the planning committee’s first choice as presider at the Mass for Peace.
"We wanted to invite someone who was a well-known public figure in order to draw a large number to the Mass, but also someone who could connect the Gospel message with our Catholic social teachings," Sister O’Brien said. "We were thrilled when he agreed to come and serve as presider and homilist."
Sister O’Brien said she had originated the idea for a Mass for Peace to the Tompkins Planning group following a similar event at St. Catherine of Siena in May 2008. That liturgy was held in conjunction with the 25th anniversary of the U.S. bishops’ historic pastoral letter, "The Challenge of Peace: God’s Promise and Our Response.”
International Day of Peace was established by the United Nations in 1981 as an annual observance. It calls for a 24-hour cease-fire of all military battles around the world, and encourages public demonstrations of peace on that day such as the Mass at Immaculate Conception.
Pellerin regarded the Sept. 21 liturgy as "a great experience, to think that all our Catholic communities in Tompkins County were able to join in this effort. Judging from the enthusiasm and dedication shown during this collaborative effort, I would have to say that, overall, the Mass was very successful. And having Bishop Clark among us as the presider made it that much more special."
"It was a wonderful service," said Vrabel, who noted that organizers hope to make the Mass for Peace an annual event. "It went well musically; so did everything with the service itself. I think the message got across very, very well."

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