Virginia Parish Sings Praise Through Music

HNP Communications In the Headlines

This is the third in an occasional series on music ministries throughout the Province. This installment features St. Francis of Assisi Church in Triangle, Va., a parish that was served by Provincial Minister John O’Connor, OFM, for 13 years. The northern Virginia community is preparing for its annual Festival of Praise on Dec. 17.

TRIANGLE, Va. — Part of what makes the music ministry special at St. Francis of Assisi Church, with its five choirs in Spanish and English, is the long length of service of music director Janet Sarsfield, who has been here for 34 years.

The music is so special, says pastor Charles Miller, OFM, that it draws people to the large parish, which includes many military families who work in and around the area.

Much-Loved Music Director
“Many of our parishioners, who live outside the boundaries of the parish, say they come here because the music is inspirational,” said Charley. “Parishioners’ participation is a priority and they do quite well, though that varies from Mass to Mass,” he adds with a smile. “Early morning seems least conducive to singing.”

“Janet Sarsfield is much loved by the parish,” according to Charley and, because of this, the choirs work together seemlessly. The Festival of Praise, for example, presented by the joint choirs during the week before Christmas is always well received. Charley, who loves to sing, can be heard in the annual festival.

The fact that the church has a few professional-quality cantors, trained instrumentalists and accompanists, almost all with music degrees, also helps distinguish the music program. One percussionist is even from the Army band. Sarsfield herself holds a music degree from Old Dominion University in Norfork, Va., and is a former voice teacher.

She says the ministry “ever-improving.” “When I began my ministry here, I immediately realized this is what I want to do for the rest of my life,” she said. “I absolutely love it.”

The parish has been blessed with many fine musicians, according to Sarsfield, who plays piano.

“We have a young family-oriented parish with many military and professional people with music gifts that they readily share with the congregation. The music chosen is uplifting, prayerful and inspiring. Both “Breaking Bread” and “Choose Christ” are used for worship aids and an attempt is made to match the texts to the readings of the day to enhance the worship experience.” Sarsfield also uses arrangements of contemporary praise and worship music.

The centerpiece of the ministry is its five choirs. The Saturday Vigil and 8 a.m. Masses are cantored with piano and/or organ. The adult choir sings at the 9:30 a.m. Mass, and includes 28 singers and musicians on organ or piano, and oboe. The noon Mass includes a worship ensemble of 12 singers, and musicians on flute, piano, guitar and bass.

triangleVaried Choirs
The teen/young adult choir performs every other Sunday at 5:30 p.m., and includes 20 singers and people on piano, percussion, guitar and flute.

There are 35 singers at the children’s Mass of the St. Francis of Assisi School Select Choir. The 
Christmas children’s choir has between 55 to 60 singers.

While the hymns are basically from two sources, the variety of musical skills and diverse choirs makes the music ministry a rich gift to St. Francis Church and something to look forward to each week.

“It’s been a total joy,” Sarsfield said of her role as a music director.

— Wendy Healy, a freelance writer from Connecticut, is a frequent contributor to HNP Today. The second feature in this music ministry series, about St. Francis of Assisi Parish on Long Beach Island, N.J., appeared in the Nov. 10 issue of this newsletter.