Hymns Raise Hope and Funding for CCWVa Southern Region

By Babette Pascasio
Christians from different denominations shared their faith and unity to help Catholic Charities West Virginia (CCWVa) Southern Region through the  “Hymns for Hope” concert at the Chuck Mathena Center in Princeton Nov. 17.
The total profit was $6,348, and “it’s made an impact on our budget and our services,” said Matt Atwood, CCWVa Southern Region director.  “We’re very thankful for all those who donated.” CCWVa also thanked all of the musical talents. “This year is the best line of performers yet,” he said.
CCWVa’s Southern Region provides servcies to those in need in Fayette, Greenbrier, McDowell, Mercer, Mon- roe, Nicholas, Pocahontas, Raleigh, Summers, Webster, and Wyoming counties. CCWVa thanked its Platinum, Gold, and Silver sponsors, which much of the donations come from.
“The name of our event reminds us of the mission of Catholic Charities: to spread hope. Hope to those living in poverty, hope to those in distress, hope to those among us suffering injustice, hope that all people of good will might hear the call to service,” said Lori Bishop, parishioner of Sacred Heart Mission in Powhatan, as she welcomed all the guests, adding, “Help us to fulfill our mission of providing critical assistance to the forgotten elderly, the hungry child, the afflicted homeless and the families just fighting to get by.” She is also CCWVa Southern Region Advisory Council Chair.
During July 1, 2018 to June 30, 2019, CCWVa Southern Region provided assistance — food for 4,015 families, basic needs of clothing/household for 64 families, adult education for 37 students, rent assistance for 16 families, transportation for 23 families, utility termination assistance for 382 families.
Beth Zarate, chief executive officer of CCWVa, also attended the concert.  “All of us working together,” she said, “is how we can most help folks.  We’re there for anybody …our doors are opened.”
The singers and musicians bestowed joy for the Thanksgiving holiday and the upcoming religious ceremonies to celebrate Christ’s birth this Christmas.  After the formal greeting, all veterans who attended the recital were honored and thanked for service and bravery for their country. Many people from the southern region and other parts of West Virginia, such as Charleston and Wheeling, also attended.
The Summit Singers presented “Sing to the Lord of Harvest” at the concert. For patriotism, they performed “God Bless America”. Summit singer Thomas Presley, who is also the handbell choir director at Sacred Heart Parish in Bluefield, said, “We love being together and singing.” The Chuck Mathena Center “feels like home and is unbelievably great,” said Summit singer and pianist Dan Turner. “The audience is always awesome.”
“I want to do something for this charity…I felt called to do it. I was a music major in college…I love music…I love the togetherness it brings,“ Presley said. “We’re  a group of friends; we’re a family.  [That’s what it feels like] when you perform in a show and do so many rehearsals.”
For musical worship, Chris Flanagan of Sacred Heart in Bluefield, did “Hallelujah” and “My Prayer.” Flanagan has been singing at church since she was 10 years old and is now a freshman at a local high school.  At Sacred Heart, she has sang “Ave Maria” in Latin and “Mary, Did you Know.”  She said her grandmother and a vocal coach taught her how to sing.
During her appear-ances, she said, “It helps me spread the word of the Lord with everyone in an enjoyable way.”  Her mother and grandmother watched her from the audience at this concert. When sharing her interest in music with friends,Flanagan said, “I like to encourage other people.  It’s a good thing to do, and it’s a fun time.”
The Chancel Choir of Welch First United Methodist Church was invited to be part of the show this year.  Their choral director is Anne Lynch, a parishioner at St. Peter’s Catholic Church in Welch.  Choral members enjoy calling her a “Metholic.”
“We’re quite ecumenical,” said Lynch, with Chancel members from the Methodist, Catholic, Mennonite, and Greek Orthodox churches in McDowell County.  “This is the coalfields…there’s all kinds of people (from different backgrounds).  We just help each other. Catholic Charities has been active in our county for many years. They do good work, and we want to be supportive of that.”
Returning for the third year was Dr. Jun Neri who sang a different version of “Hallelujah” and “American Trilogy.” Audiences use to see him play his guitar, but with the popularity of karaoke, his form of musical expression changed over the years. He’s a parishioner at Sacred Heart Parish in Princeton, and being gifted with a voice for music, he joined the choir.
“It was a wonderful feeling to participate. It’s the only way to provide this in order to raise funds by giving [each one’s] talents in this particular event.  It means a lot to us. If given the chance again, we’ll do it again. If we can do this every year, we’ll do it,” he said.
Jeff Maddow, retired coalminer, is also a choir member of Sacred Heart in Princeton. He did a rendition of “America the Beautiful” and “The Lord’s Prayer.”  “I’ve always enjoyed singing in the church choir, always have,” he said.
Pianist George Bowling accompanied Flanagan and Maddow during their presentations.  He’s a parishioner at Sacred Heart in Bluefield, where he’s also in the choir and plays the organ. He also goes to Sacred Heart Princeton to assist their choir.
“I’m glad to help (CCWVa). Their work in southern West Virginia is quite important. Any kind of money they can raise is a great benefit,” he said. Many years prior, Bowling has also helped with the youth at Sacred Heart. In his own childhood, he attended the Catholic School in Bluefield and was taught how to play the piano by one of the nuns.
Mercer County native Adam Cox, who now lives in another county with his family, returned for the concert to perform “Peace is Flowing Like a River” and “How can I Keep from Singing.” He was a former member of Sacred Heart in Princeton. He is an elementary school art teacher.
With their belief in God, these musically talented individuals raised awareness of the needs of their communities and state and also to extend Jesus Christ’s teachings and messages from the Gosepels that all people must help their neighbor.