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Parish News | Sunday, November 19, 2023

Musical martyr

Art at St. Cecilia Church, Hialeah

HIALEAH | Martyrs have often met death with singing. St. Cecilia, whose feast day is Nov. 22, did so despite a brutal assault. She is thus remembered as the patron of music and musicians.

Born in second-century Rome, Cecilia pledged as a girl to remain a virgin for life. Her wealthy family, however, arranged a marriage for her with a pagan nobleman named Valerianus.

According to tradition, Cecilia “sang in her heart to the Lord” during the wedding. And on their wedding night, she warned her groom that an angel guarded her body, protecting her virginity.

When Valerianus asked her to show him the angel, she told him to be baptized. He did so, and on returning, an angel crowned the couple with roses and lilies.

The experience so changed Valerianus that he brought his brother Tibertius to faith in Christ as well. The brothers began donating to the poor and burying Christian martyrs.

Turchius Almachius, the local governor, arrested them and ordered them to worship the Roman god Jupiter. When they refused, Almachius had them executed.

Then he went after Cecilia, who was converting hundreds to Christianity. She too was ordered to renounce her faith, but she replied that she would rather die.

Her captors took her to her bath and heated it beyond endurance. Yet after a night and a day, Cecilia simply sang, without suffocating or even breaking a sweat.

The outraged Almachius then sent an executioner, who hacked at Cecilia’s neck three times. Unable to behead her, he simply left her bleeding.

Cecilia lived for three more days, praying or preaching to visitors. She also asked Pope Urban I to convert her home into a church. When she died, Urban had her buried in a catacomb.

Her grace and courage have earned her a place in the First Eucharistic Prayer of the Roman Canon, along with other women.

It was in the Middle Ages that Cecilia came to be associated with music, probably because of the stories of her singing. She is often depicted with a flute, a viola or hand organ. Poets, musicians, composers and instrument makers, too, honor her as their patron.

Cecilia is also the patron saint of Albi, France; Omaha, Nebraska; and Mar del Plata, Argentina.

In Hialeah, St. Cecilia Church has served Catholics since 1971. Its first Masses were celebrated at a high school. The members then renovated a small Protestant church that had been destroyed in 1992 by Hurricane Andrew.

Archbishop John C. Favalora dedicated the new church in 1996. Also that year, the parish opened a daycare center for young children.

St. Cecilia was closed in 2009, then reopened two years later as the archdiocese established the Redemptoris Mater Seminary. The seminary has its own buildings but shares some space with the church. The seminarians even helped revamp the church structure.

Father Emanuele De Nigris, pastor at St. Cecilia, serves as rector at Redemptoris Mater. As a mission seminary, the school forms priests to serve at archdiocesan parishes, but also seeks to send them to mission fields.

Redemptoris Mater also works with the Neocatechumenal Way, a program for adult faith formation in the Church. The seminarians are assigned to parishes around the archdiocese, where they attend weekly Eucharist and Celebration of the Word.

Parishioners and seminarians have joined in evangelization in the neighborhood. And parishioners are invited to Prayer and Benediction with the seminarians at 7 p.m. each Sunday.

Many artworks around St. Cecilia Church are copies of pieces created by “Kiko” Arguello, a cofounder of the Neocatechumenal Way. The artworks are displayed in chapels used by the English and Spanish communities.

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