University of St. Thomas presents 29th annual Sacred Arts Festival

University of St. Thomas presents 29th annual Sacred Arts Festival

The University of St. Thomas opens its 29th annual Sacred Arts Festival on Nov. 1. The festival, open to the public on the university’s St. Paul campus, is a celebration of sacred art and an exploration of faith.  This year’s festival centers on the theme, “ Mysterium: Beauty and Suffering.”

All festival events are free unless indicated otherwise.

This year’s festival events include:

  • 7:30 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 1, in O’Shaughnessy Educational Center auditorium: Father Jan Michael Joncas will present the 10th annual Joseph and Edith Habiger Lecture in Catholic Studies. Joncas, a professor of theology at St. Thomas and an internationally known composer of liturgical music, will give a talk titled “From ‘Dies Irae’ to ‘In Paradisum’: The Mystery of Death in Catholic Sacred Music.”

Father J. Michael Joncas

Over the centuries, Joncas notes, composers have clothed the ritual texts of Christian funerals with musical sounds of varying insights, values and moods. From the sublimity of the Gregorian “In Paradisum” to the terror of Berlioz’ “Dies Irae,” from the serenity of Durufle’s “Introit” to the challenges of Britten’s “ Agnus Dei” from the “War Requiem,” these compositions have expressed and shaped Catholic sensibilities in the face of death.

(Speaking of funeral music, here’s an interesting aside: Joncas’ own composition, “On Eagle’s Wings,” has become quite a standard at Catholic funerals. It even was sung, in Italian, at the funeral of opera star Luciano Pavarotti Sept. 8 in Modena, Italy.)

The annual Habiger Lecture, sponsored jointly by St. Thomas and St. John's University in Collegeville, is named for the parents of Monsignor James Habiger, who stepped down in 1995 after 15 years as executive director of the Minnesota Catholic Conference.

  • 5:30 p.m. Friday, Nov. 2, in the Chapel of St. Thomas Aquinas: All Souls’ Day Solemn Evening Prayer, an ecumenical service of liturgy and music, has its roots in a centuries-old tradition of the Roman Catholic Church.

The service, led by St. Thomas’ president Rev. Dennis Dease, includes psalms, petitions and music by the university’s Women’s Choir, conducted by Dr. Angela Broeker. All Souls’ Day is an opportunity to remember the dead and celebrate the communion of saints. Prayer cards will be distributed and those present will be invited to sign a book of remembrance in honor of those deceased members of the St. Thomas community – students, faculty, staff, alumni and benefactors, their family members and friends.

Following this vespers service, a reception will be held in the Rogge-Leyden Room of Murray-Herrick Campus Center.

  • Nov. 5-Dec. 7, in O’Shaughnessy Educational Center Lobby Gallery: An exhibit, “Pandemic: Imaging AIDS,” includes 30 works from a traveling exhibition by award-winning photographers and artists from more than 50 countries. It presents 20 years of the photographic response to the AIDS epidemic; the full exhibition premiered at the International AIDS Conference in Barcelona in July 2002.

The exhibit, part of the multifaceted educational project titled “Pandemic: Facing AIDS,” captures the range of response to the global epidemic, as well as the changing reality for people living with AIDS.

Exhibit hours are 9 a.m. to 10 p.m. Mondays through Saturdays and noon to 10 p.m. Sundays.

  • 6 p.m. Monday, Nov. 5, in O’Shaughnessy Educational Center auditorium: The 2002 film, “Pandemic: Facing AIDS,” by award-winning filmmaker Rory Kennedy, tells the personal stories of men and women, from five countries, living with HIV and AIDS. The documentary was produced in association with the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and HBO and puts a human face on the global epidemic.
  • 8 p.m. Monday, Nov. 5, in O’Shaughnessy Educational Center auditorium:  Filmmaker Rory Kennedy will give a presentation, “Making the Film, ‘Pandemic: Facing AIDS.’” Kennedy is co-founder of Moxie Firecracker Films Inc., an independent documentary production company. She has produced documentaries for HBO, A & E, The Learning Channel and other networks on a variety of topics, including the global AIDS crisis, domestic abuse, poverty and addiction. Her critically acclaimed film “American Hollow,” about an Appalachian family caught between century-old tradition and the encroaching modern world,” premiered at the 1999 Sundance Film Festival. She is the youngest child of the late Sen. Robert F. Kennedy, born six months after his death.

For more information about the film and other resources, visit

  • 11:45 a.m.-1:15 p.m. Tuesday, Nov. 6, in the O’Shaughnessy Room of O’Shaughnessy-Frey Library Center: A panel discussion about the exhibit, “Pandemic: Imaging AIDS,” will include Dr. John Stomberg, a lecturer and curator at the Williams College Museum of Art in Williamstown, Mass., and Dr. Laurie Cassidy, assistant professor of religious studies at Marywood University in Scranton, Pa.
  • 8:15 p.m. Tuesday, Nov. 6, in the Chapel of St. Thomas Aquinas:  Swedish organist Hans Fagius,
    Hans Fagius

    since 1989 an organ professor at the Royal Danish Academy of Music and since 1998 a member of the Royal Swedish Music Academy, will give a recital on the St. Thomas chapel’s Gabriel Kney organ. Fagius performed at the organ’s dedication recital 20 years ago.

Fagius’ recital will include Johann Sebastian Bach’s Pièce d’Orgue (Fantasia) in G major, Triosonata in G major and Prelude and Fuge in G minor; “Chords and Bells,” a 2006 work by Rolf Martinsson (b. 1958); and Symphony
No. 6 in B minor, Op. 59, by Louis Vierne (1870-1937).

Fagius’ recital also is part of “Piping Hot: A Twin Cities Celebration of the Pipe Organ,” a week of free concerts, master classes and workshops Nov. 4-11 co-sponsored by the Twin Cities chapter of the American Guild of Organists. For more information on “Piping Hot,” visit or call (651) 290-1087.

Fagius, who studied in Paris with famous organist and composer Maurice Duruflé, began his concert career after winning international organ competitions in Leipzig and Stockholm in 1972 and 1973. He has made numerous recordings on the Swedish label BIS, including J.S. Bach’s complete organ works, a 17-CD collection.

  • 7:30 p.m. Wednesday, Nov. 7, in O’Shaughnessy Educational Center auditorium:  Sowah Mensah conducts the St. Thomas African Music Ensemble in a free concert. The ensemble recently received an invitation to perform at the Music Educators’ National Convention next spring in Milwaukee, Wis.
  • 7:30 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 8, in 3M Auditorium of Owens Science Hall: Dr. Mary Rose O’Reilley,
    Dr. Mary Rose O'Reilley

    professor emerita of English
    at St. Thomas, will present
    “Controlled Burn: Poetry,
    Memoir and Forest Ecology,”
    a reading of poetry and
    selections from her book,
    The Love of Impermanent
    Things: A Threshold Economy
    (St. Paul: Milkweed Editions,

O’Reilley, born in Pampa, Texas, was raised in St. Paul. She earned her Bachelor of Arts degree from the College of St. Catherine and completed M.A. and Ph.D. degrees at the University of Wisconsin - Milwaukee. She was awarded the 2005 Walt Whitman Award for her first book-length collection of poems, Half Wild ( Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 2006). Her other awards include a Contemplative Studies Grant from the American Council of Learned Societies, a Bush Artist Grant, and the McKnight Award of Distinction. She also is the author of memoirs The Barn at the End of the World : The Apprenticeship of a Quaker, Buddhist Shepherd (St. Paul: Milkweed Editions, 2000) and The Garden at Night: Burnout and Breakdown in the Teaching Life (Portsmouth, N.H.: Heinemann, 2005); and two books rooted in her spiritual tradition, Radical Presence: Teaching as Contemplative Practice (Portsmouth: Boynton/Cook, 1998) and The Peaceable Classroom (Portsmouth: Boynton/Cook, 1993). She began teaching at St. Thomas in 1978.

  • 7:30 p.m. Friday, Nov. 9, in O’Shaughnessy Educational Center auditorium:  “The Fountain,” a 2006 film directed by Darren Aronofsky. The science fiction fantasy, starring Hugh Jackman and Rachel Weisz, explores themes of love and mortality. Dr. Terence Nichols, professor of theology at St. Thomas, leads a discussion that follows.
  • 3 p.m. Sunday, Nov. 11, in St. Mary’s Chapel at the St. Paul Seminary School of Divinity, 2260 Summit Ave.: A recital, “Songs and Meanings,” features the premiere of “Five Songs of Walt Whitman” by Dr. James Callahan, a St. Thomas professor
    Dr. James Callahan

    emeritus of music. Performers are St. Thomas faculty: Dr. Alan Bryan, baritone; Dr. Sarah Schmalenberger, French horn, and Will Kemperman, percussion. Callahan, a renowned organist, also will perform. The even t also will include a short lecture on Whitman’s poems by Dr. Andrew Scheiber of the St. Thomas English Department and a talk by Callahan about his compositions.

For further information about the Sacred Arts Festival, visit or call (651) 962-6572.