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Blessed Sacrament Presents “Church on Fire” Lecture & Concert Series

Blessed Sacrament Church, located at 1029 Delaware Avenue in the Elmwood Village, invites its parishioners and Buffalonians of all walks of life to attend its “Church on Fire: Stay With Us!” Lecture and Concert series,  with events taking place throughout the next several months.

“Church on Fire” by Michael Pitek, Watercolor

Last April, the Catholic Church suffered a tremendous loss with the burning of the Cathedral Notre Dame de Paris. An article written by Annemarie Scobey-Polacheck called attention to the parallels between the disaster of the fire at the Cathedral and the reality that the Catholic Church was, itself, burning since the beginning of the sexual abuse crisis in 2002. As the cathedral fire burned, the Paris Fire Brigade chaplain, Fr. Jean-Marc Fournier, ran into the building to save the crown of thorns and the Blessed Sacrament.

With the “Church on Fire” event series, organizers hope to emphasize the Church’s duty to follow Fr. Fournier’s example by running into the fire instead of standing by and pretending it isn’t burning, recognizing their responsibility to those who have suffered under this crisis, and giving their parishioners and community the chance to share their thoughts on how to heal and move forward in a positive direction.

“Our goal in hosting this series is to offer people in this city something positive versus all the negative sex scandal headlines they’re reading,” said Michael Pitek, a longtime parishioner of Blessed Sacrament Church, chair of its parish pastoral  council, and one of the organizers of the event.

There’s a crisis of faith right now,” he said. “A lot of Catholics have fled the Church and a lot of people are on a very thin line trying to decide whether to stay or leave. With this series we wanted to offer a program where people could learn, reflect, be inspired through word, music and song, and basically focus on the positive and see what good is happening today.

Pitek notes that the series also aims to build awareness of Blessed Sacrament Church and to build community in general. “We are trying to reach people in Buffalo and Western New York of all faiths, whether they are Catholic or not,” he said. “Music can be so relaxing and inspiring, whether it’s vocal or instrumental. We’re trying to allow people to come in for a spiritual, religious, cultural, or cause-related discussion and have a variety of topics that appeal to both the young and the old.”

The first event of the Catherine M. and Paul W. Beltz Lecture Series will commence on March 5 and events will continue through May. The lectures will feature representatives from our local Catholic universities (Niagara, Bonaventure and Canisius)   – “the Little Three Conference of Religion,” as Pitek puts it. Each of these priests will share how the missions of their founders – St. Vincent de Paul, St. Francis of Assisi, and St. Ignatius of Loyola – are still relevant today in rebuilding the Church. The fourth speaker, Sr. Margaret Carney, president emeritus of St. Bonaventure University will speak on the topic of “Women in a Wounded Church.”

The final speaker is Nobel Peace Prize Nominee, Sr. Helen Prejean. Sr. Helen wrote the book Dead Man Walking for which she received the Pulitzer Prize. The book was later made into a film and was nominated for several Oscars. Susan Sarandon won Best Actress for her portrayal of Prejean. Known world-wide for her advocacy for the abolition of the death penalty Sr. Helen will talk about her newest book, her memoir, River of Fire: My Spiritual Journey.

Running in tandem with the lecture series will be a series of concerts, designed to provide faith enlightening experiences through sacred music performances. This series will open on March 29 with a “Spring Passion” concert featuring  a performance of Joseph Haydn’s “The Seven Last Words of Christ” by the Ars Nova Musicians Chamber Orchestra – a piece that will provide a transformative experience to listeners. The other concerts feature performances by The Choir of St. Louis Church and a special “Icons and Legends” concert by the Vocális Chamber Choir – all focusing on the good of the human spirit.

“I think music is a very powerful medium of expression and emotion,” Pitek said. “I believe music is not only a creative and artistic expression, but music can also be a form of prayer. You don’t have to be kneeling on your knees to truly have a meaningful experience.”

The full schedule of lectures and concerts is listed below.

The Catherine M. and Paul W. Beltz

St. Vincent de Paul-Then and Today: Ecclesiastical Reform
Rev. Aidan R. Rooney, C.M., Vice President for Mission Integration at Niagara University
March 5, 2020: 7:00 p.m.
Blessed Sacrament Church

St. Francis of Assisi-Then and Today: Rebuild My Church
Rev. Ross Chamberland, O.F.M., Ed.D, Executive Director of the Lateran Center for Catholic Identity, Assistant VP for Student Engagement; and Interim University Chaplain at St. Bonaventure University
March 19, 2020: 7:00 p.m.
Blessed Sacrament Church

St. Ignatius of Loyola-Then and Today: Ignatian Spirituality
Rev. Thomas Slon, S.J., priest of the Society of Jesus and rector of the Jesuit Community of Buffalo
April 1, 2020: 7:00 p.m.
Blessed Sacrament Church

Women in a Wounded Church
Sr. Margaret Carney, O.S.F., STD, President Emeritus of St. Bonaventure University
April 26, 2020: 3:00 p.m.
Blessed Sacrament Church

River of Fire: My Spiritual Journey
Sr. Helen Prejean, C.S.J., Sisters of St. Joseph member and Nobel Peace Prize nominee
May 11, 2020: 7:00 p.m.
Shea’s 710 Theatre

Church on Fire: Stay With Us! Concert Series

Spring Passion
Ars Nova Musicians Chamber Orchestra
March 29, 2020: 3:00 p.m.
Blessed Sacrament Church

A Resurrection Concert
Choir of St. Louis Church
May 7, 2020: 7:30 p.m.
Blessed Sacrament Church

Icons and Legends: A Benefit Concert for Blessed Sacrament Church
Vocális Chamber Choir
July 12, 2020: 7:30  p.m.
Blessed Sacrament Church

Pitek’s original watercolor painting of the burning Cathedral Notre Dame, also titled “Church on Fire,” will be on display and limited edition prints will be sold as a fundraiser for Blessed Sacrament Church.

“I hope those who attend the events will take away some new perspective and new insight,” Pitek said. “I hope they will be moved in some way, and I hope each person will grow in some positive dimension that helps their life become a little richer.”

Tickets for Sr. Helen’s River of Fire presentation can be purchased through the Shea’s Box Office (716-847-0850) or at TicketMaster. Tickets for all other lectures and concerts held at Blessed Sacrament Church can be reserved online by going to:

“Church on Fire” by Michael Pitek, Watercolor

Written by Buffalo Rising

Buffalo Rising

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