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Feature News | Wednesday, February 28, 2024

A Mass for the forgotten

Mass setting 'Requiem for the Forgotten' premieres at Epiphany Parish, with archbishop of San Francisco presiding

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MIAMI | From Bach to Mozart, countless musicians have been inspired to write Requiem Mass settings. On March 15, locals will have the opportunity to attend the world premiere of a new work, Frank La Rocca’s “Requiem for the Forgotten,” a piece originally commissioned by San Francisco’s archbishop.

The Mass’ purpose is to offer prayers for the souls of those who have died without a proper funeral, including the homeless, refugees, and soldiers, said Miami conductor Richard Carrillo. The Mass will be celebrated at 7:30 p.m. at Epiphany Church in South Miami.

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Carrillo, a University of Miami doctorate student and St. John Neumann parish choir director, will be conducting two professional ensembles during the world premiere: a choir of 20 singers and an orchestra of viola, cello, bass, harp, and organ. 

The setup is unique due to the absence of violins, creating a “somber” and “rich” texture, said Carrillo. Moreover, the musicians are locals who hail from big names such as Seraphic Fire and the Frost School of Music.

The Mass celebrant, San Francisco Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone, first commissioned “Requiem” under the title, “Requiem for the Homeless.” The piece premiered in November 2020.

“I wanted Frank La Rocca to express musically what it was like to be homeless, and he did an extraordinary job, taking us on a journey with this Mass from agony to the hope of the peace of Christ,” said Archbishop Cordileone in an email interview with the Florida Catholic. “We had for several years been holding a Mass to pray for those who died on the streets of San Francisco, and this was an expression of love and concern, a desire to pray for and honor our fellow human beings in the most difficult situations.”

After the premiere of “Requiem for the Homeless,” the archbishop and attendees shared a meal with the homeless in St. Anthony’s Dining Hall, located in the impoverished Tenderloin district of San Francisco. 

The war in Ukraine gave “Requiem for the Homeless” a broader meaning.

“When we saw the ‘Requiem for the Homeless’ was being repurposed as a fundraiser for Ukrainian refugees, we decided to broaden the focus to all people who are homeless — displaced by war or natural disasters as well as poverty, addiction, and mental illness,” Archbishop Cordileone said.

James Matthew Wilson, poet-in-residence for the Benedict XVI Institute for Sacred Music and Divine Worship, wrote an offertory for Ukraine included in “Requiem for the Forgotten.”

Archbishop Cordileone founded the institute several years ago. According to its, it aims to “[provide] practical resources for more beautiful and reverent liturgies and [energize] a Catholic culture of the arts.”

La Rocca set Wilson’s offertory to music. The grandson of exiles from Soviet Ukraine, La Rocca has a strong personal connection to the piece, Archbishop Cordileone noted.

Carrillo conducted one of La Rocca’s other pieces, “Mass of the Americas, ”at Epiphany on Oct. 3, 2023. He invited Archbishop Cordileone to preside but the archbishop was unable to make it. When “Requiem for the Forgotten” was created, he knew exactly the location for the world premiere: at Epiphany, termed by Carrillo “the epicenter for music in the archdiocese.”

Both Archbishop Cordileone and Carrillo agreed that premiering “Requiem” in Miami will be a poignant experience, given that the Mass’ purpose of praying for victims of Soviet Communism, political refugees, and the homeless resonates with the South Florida community.

The archbishop and Carrillo also noted the significance of “Requiem” in light of the Eucharistic Revival.

“Nowadays, people think truth is relative, and so what is goodness? The only thing that’s left is beauty,” Carrillo said. “Maybe someone’s coming to Mass to hear the music or because they’re just curious. Through music, we can draw people and musicians to Mass, to experience the beauty of Eucharist.”

Epiphany’s music director, Tom Schuster, said those attending will “have the chance to be a part of something really historic” in the unveiling of the new music.

“Anytime there’s a Mass it’s a great time to come and pray, but this is special because it’s a new piece, remembering those who are often not remembered: homeless, migrants, those who don’t normally get attention,” said Schuster.

With this new sacred music, “we first of all honor the equal dignity of every human soul, high or low, rich or poor,” said Archbishop Cordileone. He added that it’s a work of mercy to “pray for the souls of those who died, whether on the streets of San Francisco or in Gaza, or in the Ukraine.”

“We do our best to honor Our Lord in the Eucharist by offering him our very best in the liturgy — much as the woman honored the Body of Jesus with perfume,” added the archbishop. “Come to this Mass and you will experience the mysteries of the faith in a new and deeper way: of these the Eucharist is the deepest mystery and the greatest miracle of all.”

IF YOU GO

  • “Requiem for the Forgotten” will premiere at 7:30 p.m. March 15, 2024, at Epiphany Church, 8235 S.W. 57 Ave., Miami. A reception will follow the Mass.
  • For more information and to register, visit https://bit.ly/3StCDiF. Tickets are not required but registrations help organizers plan for the reception afterwards with Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone.


Comments from readers

Valli Leone - 02/29/2024 08:10 PM
Thank you so very much for this beautiful presentation and the notice of the upcoming Requiem Mass for the forgotten on March 15. On that day I will be preparing to leave for Africa, but I am notifying our Saint Vincent De Paul, community, as well as all of our people at St. Justin Martyr Catholic Church in Key Largo. Just as God knows each one of our names, so He never forgets those who have died without a proper burial. This very wonderful Memorial Mass, I am sure, will put a smile on the face of God and pour compassion into the hearts of those who attend. Thank you for this and for being the Body of Christ who loves and respects the lost and the poorest of the poor. Jesus never fails! ♥️

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