Christopher Lushis
Freelance Writer
January 13, 2023 // Diocese

St. Hildegard Project Created to Teach and Perform Sacred Music

Christopher Lushis
Freelance Writer

Sacred music is an essential component of Christian worship. As the Church has indicated in her official documents, “music is a way for God to lead us to the realm of higher things.” And as St. Augustine said, “singing is for the one who loves.”

Jerome Cole, Director of Sacred Music at St. Joseph Parish, Mishawaka, has long exhibited a passion and talent for bringing beautiful music to the ears and hearts of Catholics seeking to glorify the Lord through song. His experience throughout the diocese has also led him to encounter many gifted musicians and directors who share the same desires.

This enthusiasm for liturgy and interest in helping the larger community led him to found the St. Hildegard Project, an initiative dedicated to the teaching and performance of sacred music. Comprised of men and women who share a fervent devotion for both music and evangelization, Cole states that the primary goals of the project are to “teach with integrity and perform with excellence for the edification of souls and the glory of God.”

Provided by Jerome Cole
Members of the St. Hildegard Project at St. Joseph Catholic Church, Mishawaka, include (Front L to R): Edith Lagarde, Jessica Roberts, Laura LeGare, Mary Ouellette, and Ellen Friesen, and (Back L to R): Daniel Tucker, Jerome Cole, Jon Wheeler, and James Richardson.

Cole shared that one of their primary aims is “to help parishes provide sacred music training to their people. We intend for our project to provide the apparatus for going to parishes, offering presentations to their choirs or parishioners, assisting the music director — or even if they do not have a music director — to provide inspiration and guidance, all with the Eucharist in mind. The primary aim of our project is leading people to the Eucharist through beauty.”

The current members of the St. Hildegard Project include Jerome Cole, Laura LeGare, Mary Ouellette, Edith Lagarde, Blaise Waldstein, Jessica Roberts, Ellen Friesen, Jon Wheeler, James Richardson, and Daniel Tucker.

Cole said, “I realized that we had many directors and musicians in the South Bend region who desire to teach others and perform at a high level, and we could all benefit by pooling our resources together. Each of us has a different type of talent, so we enrich one another through our shared collaboration.”

Laura LeGare, who serves as Vice President of the project, has sung with renowned choirs throughout her career. She shared her appreciation for the St. Hildegard Project specifically due to its joint focus on both musical excellence and authentic prayer, emphasizing her long-felt desire to work with colleagues who were not only skilled musicians but also believed the faith which the music shares and portrays. For this reason, following a Tenebrae service in 2022 — a performance which included another founding member, Mary Ouelette — LeGare inquired whether Cole had any desire to start something like this project. He joyfully responded that he had been praying about this exact type of initiative for months.

Regarding the name of the choir, Cole stated, “St. Hildegard of Bingen was an abbess, a mystic, a poet, and composed a lot of music herself, which is inspiring to each of us. As an artist, she expressed her love of God and led others to God through her poetic expression, just as we seek to do.”

Cole indicated that this project aims to assist parish music directors who have professional training and experience but rarely have the time or ability to perform at their highest possible level. It also aims for directors and musicians to know and support one another and find new avenues to bring their love for God into their professional performance.

Jon Wheeler, a parishioner at St. Matthew’s Cathedral and member of the project, expressed thoughts similar to LeGare. He stated, “While I have sung with some excellent choirs and directors, sometimes the emphasis has been to perform music simply for the sake of music. Something at the heart of this project is the focus on doing liturgies and workshops at an extremely high caliber, specifically for the sake of Christ, to show forth the glory of God, and to bring the rich tradition of the Church’s liturgical music to those who are largely unexposed to it. This project has been nourishing to my own prayer life!”

Andrew Ouellette, a member of the project’s board of directors and husband of founding member Mary Ouellette, spoke of his appreciation for the opportunity to benefit the local diocese. He shared, “Our board exists to ensure we remain faithful to our mission and continue to do the good work that we set out to do. This initiative exists to not leave behind our heritage as a relic of the past or a museum item, but to make it a part of the living daily experience of the Catholics in the pews.”

This effort of sharing the richness of the Church’s musical history has already proven both successful and beneficial through a crossover education-performance experience for students at St. Thomas More Academy in South Bend and a Lessons and Carols event at Westville Correctional Facility.

Cole shared that the education portion of the project will be manifested in additional ways as well. He indicated, “Last year, Lorraine Mihaliak, Director of Liturgical Music at St. Monica, and I organized a two-day music festival in Mishawaka, offering local singers the opportunity to participate in workshops, formation talks, to sing together, and build community. We wanted to provide an experience of fellowship and fun. The St. Hildegard Project will take this on in subsequent years. We are also exploring developing a summer camp for college students in 2024 that will allow students to work through a project with us over the course of several weeks.”

Furthermore, in light of the Eucharistic Revival, they will be soon offering formation workshops for musicians in the diocese with a focus on Eucharistic devotion. These events will take place on Jan. 28 at St. Peter Church in Fort Wayne and Feb. 25 at St. Monica Church in Mishawaka. Registration is available on the diocese’s Office of Worship page at or on their official website at Additional information about the choir, upcoming events, or how to invite them to a parish can also be found on their website.

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