Giving Praise: USD Musically Celebrates Saint Teresa of Calcutta

Giving Praise: USD Musically Celebrates Saint Teresa of Calcutta

Mother Teresa's opening words from her Nobel Peace Prize acceptance speech on December 10, 1979 in Oslo, Norway, showcased the power of her presence, a determination to bring all people together and a message of hope for a better world.

"Let us all together thank God for this beautiful occasion where we can all together proclaim the joy of spreading peace, the joy of loving one another and the joy acknowledging that the poorest of the poor are our brothers and sisters," she said.

She then a reciting of St. Francis of Assisi's prayer for peace. It was there, on a grand international and very public stage during an event to praise her efforts, that she revealed her greatest gift. Being in community, praising God and spreading a message of helping others, especially the poorest of the poor, her life is a quintessential model for giving of oneself.

USD Program Celebrates Saint Teresa

Fast forward to Sept. 25, 2016 inside the University of San Diego's Founders Chapel where USD campus and community members gathered to celebrate the recent canonization of now Saint Teresa of Calcutta. A musical tribute, led by USD Music Professor Jeffrey Malecki, DMA, and a program that included comments from USD faculty and staff and Father Belisaio Gonzalez Aguilar of the Missionaries of Charity Fathers, an organization co-founded by Saint Teresa, delivered spirited examples of her penchant for giving.

The highlight of the program was the concluding act, the world premiere performance of "Poorest of the Poor: Honoring Mother Teresa in Music and Song." Written and created by Thomas Bough, DMA, director of athletics bands at Northern Illinois University, it was then performed by students from USD’s Wind Ensemble and Choral Scholars. Malecki and Choral Scholars Director Emilie Amrein, DMA, were conductors for the composition. Bough flew out to San Diego to see and hear it performed.

"It's not my music, it's God's music," Bough said at a post-event reception. "As I walked into (Founders Hall) earlier today and heard the rehearsal in progress, I stopped. I was moved to tears when I heard the sounds coming out of this beautiful chapel by these talented young people."

Malecki was quite pleased with the work of the students, who came into Sunday's performance with a limited number of class meetings and practice opportunities to bring it all together. He appreciated comments he received from audience members at the reception.

"You could feel Mother Teresa's presence throughout this piece (of music), you could feel that she'd be there sitting and enjoying it," Malecki said.

Inspiration to Create a Tribute

Bough, whose father introduced him to Mother Teresa by way of a book about her life, said the chance to create something special that reflects on her extraordinary life made his work worthwhile. "She really lived out her faith. She's an amazing example of that. Very inspiring."

And on Sunday, it was Bough's tribute that was an inspiration to others. "To have people coming up to me and say they felt that it captured her spirit is the highest praise I could receive," he said.

Giving to others was a consistent message throughout the program.

The wind ensemble performed two other musical pieces, "O God, Make Haste to Save Me" from Vespers (1610) and Anton Bruckner's "Ave Maria." The Choral Scholars sang Rene Clausen's "Prayer."

The collaborative program, reflecting USD’s liberal arts education and Catholic Intellectual Tradition, included remarks from USD’s Frances G. Harpst Center for Catholic Thought and Culture Director Jeffrey Burns and Executive Assistant Deborah Francisco; Associate Professor of Chemistry James Bolender, who discussed global water and poverty issues through the lens of projects that he and USD students are doing in Mbarara, Uganda; a brief Q&A between Bough and Malecki, who are professional acquaintances; and Father Aguilar, currently a missionary priest in Tijuana, who had met Saint Teresa on several occasions through his Missionaries of Charity affiliation since 1988.

"She is a great saint, a heroic woman," Father Aguilar said of Saint Teresa. "All the love she had, she gave it to the poorest of the poor. There was a place for all in society. Her love was a universal kind of love."

— Ryan T. Blystone

Sunday’s event was sponsored by the Harpst Center for Catholic Thought and Culture, USD Department of Music Chair David Harnish, Vice President of Mission and Ministry’s Monsignor Daniel J. Dillabough, Dean of USD’s College of Arts and Sciences Noelle Norton, USD Humanities Center Director Dr. Brian Clack, USD Changemaker Hub Director Mike Williams and the Center for Educational Excellence’s Just Read Collaborative Coordinator Johnny Bobe II.


Members of the USD Wind Ensemble and Choral Scholars perform during a Musical Celebration of Saint Teresa of Calcutta on Sept. 25, 2016 in Founders Chapel.Members of the USD Wind Ensemble and Choral Scholars perform during a Musical Celebration of Saint Teresa of Calcutta on Sept. 25, 2016 in Founders Chapel.

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