Christopher Lushis
Freelance Writer
November 4, 2022 // Diocese

Ecce Choir ‘Unveils’ Nature of Sacred Music in Church

Christopher Lushis
Freelance Writer

The Second Vatican Council expressly taught that “the musical tradition of the universal Church is a treasure of inestimable value, greater even than that of any other art.” In recent years, Jessica Schuster, an artist passionately dedicated to making this treasure better known and appreciated by the faithful, has brought the Fort Wayne-South Bend diocese many experiences of inestimable treasure through her singing and direction of sacred music.

Photos by Christopher Lushis
The Ecce Choir, led by director Jessica Schuster, performs at St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Parish on Sunday, Oct. 23, for the “Sacred Music Unveiled” event. Members of the choir are from left to right: Anna Eby, Kathleen Frey, Montserrat Martinez Cuen, Jennifer Litchfield, Julia Schuster, Parker Mass, Brian Smith, Jeremiah Hartman, and Andrew Mourey.

Founder of a young adult choir that regularly tours Indiana and Ohio, Schuster has sought to evangelize and inspire audiences, leading them to into the heart of the Gospel through an immersive encounter with beauty. The choir, named “Ecce” (Latin for “behold”), is comprised of vocalists between the ages 18-30, who through the gift of their music and their whole being seek to “boldly proclaim the Gospel message by the beauty of the music we sing, the splendor of the truths we teach, the authenticity of our friendship, and the witness of our lives,” as described by Schuster.

Having performed at numerous parishes since their founding in 2017, Ecce was most recently given the opportunity to sing at St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Catholic Church, Fort Wayne, for a three-part event entitled “Sacred Music Unveiled”. Beginning with a concert, Schuster and her choir educated minds and elevated hearts through reflections from Scripture and the saints coupled with performances of traditional sacred music, both in English and Latin. 

Before their final song, “Adoremus Te Christe”, Schuster explained, “When we are faced with the overwhelming love of God, when we behold His beauty, our hearts can only respond, ‘We adore You, O Christ, and we bless You, because by Your holy cross You have redeemed the world.’ His love for us is why we sing … it is the only reason why we sing.”

Father Terry Coonan, Pastor of St. Elizabeth Ann Seton, remarked afterwards, “This choir has found a true recipe for effective evangelization and transformation of hearts. The music, coupled with the short explanations before each piece is sung, is exceedingly helpful for people to process what they are hearing and to pray through it all. It’s a great format that really allows for a prayerful encounter with the Lord through the music.”

In the seminar portion of the event, Jessica Schuster teaches attendees about the hidden beauty of sacred music and leads attendees in singing the “Ave Verum Corpus.”

Following the concert, Schuster led a 45-minute seminar presentation, sharing more about the choir, why sacred music is important to Catholic faith and liturgy, and how the Lord has unveiled this to her personally through her own life and experiences. 

She continued, “Sacred music takes these mysteries of our faith that are so amazing – even our adult brains cannot understand their depth this side of eternity – and unveils their splendor in such a way that they penetrate our hearts; not only our minds, but our entire person. This is because God wants all of us! We are called to use our gifts to respond to His love with a full gift of ourselves and glorify Him.”

It is for this reason that God has given the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass to the Church, to provide intimate access to the greatest mystery of all, the redemption of the world and God’s outpouring of love from His Sacred Heart. Schuster reminded others that, “we may know intellectually what is going on at Mass, but we can become numb to it, getting distracted, letting it become routine, not letting the truth of God reach our hearts. But when the Mass is sung, as reminded at Vatican II, we are reawakened and God’s majesty is unveiled anew.” She clarified, “now, our music doesn’t make the Mass more beautiful; the Mass is already the perfect sacrifice; it is intrinsically beautiful. But sacred music unveils the beauty that is always taking place.”

To provide those present an opportunity to participate in this type of beauty, Schuster concluded her talk by leading those present in an exercise to participate int he beauty she described, teaching the group to sing the “Ave Verum Corpus” Gregorian chant in unison.

After her presentation, the choir returned to sing for the evening Mass, giving parishioners an opportunity to hear the music sung for its highest purpose: To glorify God within the sacred liturgy. 

Jennifer Litchfield has been part of Ecce since 2019. A parishioner of St. Charles Borromeo Parish, Fort Wayne, and current senior at Purdue Fort Wayne, Litchfield shared that “through the choir, I have realized how much and how many people need beauty brought to them – true beauty, pure beauty. I have been able to see through my own faith life how through beauty we realize we are not alone. I am merely here so that I can see the fullness of Christ’s beauty. I can do that through my music, through the gifts He has given me. I also think everyone has a gift that can magnify Christ’s beauty and reveal it to the world; sometimes they don’t even know they have that beauty given to them.” 

Ecce’s next public event will be “Adoration by Candlelight” at Our Lady of Good Hope, Fort Wayne, on Sunday, Nov. 6, from 6-7:30 p.m. The choir will also be singing for Advent Lessons and Carols on Sunday, Dec. 4, at 3 p.m. at St. Mary of the Assumption, Decatur, and on Saturday, Dec. 10, at 7 p.m. at St. Vincent de Paul, Fort Wayne. All are welcome.

To watch and listen to their recorded concert “Never Alone: A Concert of Sacred Music” click here.

Anyone who in interested in joining the choir is invited to email Jessica at [email protected]. To be considered, singers must be practicing Catholics, within the ages of 18 and 30, and proficient in reading music. 

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