By Katherine Long | Editor

Choir members from the linked parishes of St. Augustine and St. Mary of the Assumption in Baldwinsville lifted their voices in song March 16 for a very special audience.

Residents of the Franciscan Villa, a senior living facility in Salina that is home to about 80 Franciscan sisters, were treated to several classic hymns by the group of some two dozen singers. The combined choir assembled around a statue of St. Marianne Cope (at far middle right) in the courtyard outside the facility’s dining room, where many sisters enjoyed the mini concert through partially-opened windows (At far right, Sister Bernadette Joseph Kupris, OSF, stands near one of the windows). In light of the coronavirus pandemic, the Villa is closed to visitors until April 12.

On learning of the visitor restrictions, parish pastor Father Cliff Auth “presented to the staff, ‘What can we do?’” explained Sister Marcia Barry, OSF, who ministers in the parish community. “They came up with the combined choir.”

Ryan Schaffer, director of music at St. Mary and St. Augustine, (pictured at near right) selected a handful of classic and meaningful hymns for the group, including “Here I am Lord”; “Make Me a Channel of your Peace,” the prayer of St. Francis; “Immaculate Mary”; and even a bit of “When Irish Eyes are Smiling.” The sisters met each song with a round of applause. The groups outside and inside prayed together Bishop Douglas J. Lucia’s Novena Prayer for an End to the Coronavirus Pandemic and received a blessing from Father Auth (pictured at bottom left).Schaffer called the turnout excellent and encouraged other parishes and ministers to find creative ways to support their communities during this tumultuous time. “We’re all in this together. We have to stay positive — and kind, as Father Cliff said.”

Sister Marcia noted, “We’re standing on holy ground here. These are the sisters [who] have guided us through the past and are still continuing to do that…. They’re leading us through this health care crisis by praying and doing whatever they can do for us.

“As always, with great dignity and love the sisters are here for everybody and always, always praying for the needs of people in our parishes. So I just think it was astounding for the people to give back this way,” she said.

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