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Youth with special needs rock runway in NYC church

December 12, 2017 CNA Daily News 1

New York City, N.Y., Dec 12, 2017 / 05:00 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Last Friday night, more than 200 people gathered for a Times Square fashion show in New York City.  It wasn’t in a fashion house or theater. Instead, the models walked in a unique venue: a Church. The special venue was only fitting: the models have special needs, and they modeled adaptive clothing brands and styles, raising money for charities that help children with disabilities.

“Organizing a fashion show for those with special needs reminds us that true beauty lies in our dignity as unique children of God” said Sean O’Hare, fashion show organizer, in a statement.

The show was held at St. Malachy’s Church on the West Side of Manhattan, and all proceeds from the show went to benefit the Special Needs Activity Center for Kids and Adults. Models, who have a variety of special needs, modeled outfits from dress designer Jovani, fashion brand Thursday Boots, and adaptive clothing brand Independence Day Clothing.

Because some of the models have sensitivities to loud music, shouting, or clapping, the show chose a novel soundtrack for its show: a live choir. The St. Joseph’s Choir, a Catholic choir based at the university parish at New York University, sang pop and praise songs as the models walked.

Along with O’Hare, former Miss America 2008 and Fox News Contributor Kirsten Haglund co-hosted the event.

Any fashion show, one of the most important elements, besides the clothes themselves, is the audience reception. At St. Malachy’s the models were met with overwhelmingly positive reviews.  

“What a terrific night!” said Tracy Nixon, a mother and founder of a non-profit for those with Down syndrome, Gigi’s Playhouse NYC. “My daughter and everyone from GiGi’s Playhouse NYC had the best time tonight!”

The positive reception of the show has even inspired organizer O’Hare to plan other fashion shows like this around the country under the name, “100 Million Strong.”

“According to the UN there are approximately 100 million severely disabled individuals around the world,” O’Hare explained. “We want to demonstrate that this a large community, but one with strength, fortitude and joy!”  
He hopes these shows can help to raise money for local special needs charities, encourage other designers to consider adaptive clothing solutions for people with unique physical needs, and celebrate the special needs community around the nation.

 

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No Picture
News Briefs

These Dominican brothers are releasing a folk album

December 12, 2017 CNA Daily News 0

Washington D.C., Dec 12, 2017 / 12:09 pm (CNA).- Folk music is known for its foot-tapping, hand-clapping, barn-raising style – but now, a group of Dominican brothers is giving the genre a theological twist.

Meet the Hillbilly Thomists, a group of Dominican brothers who have a new album coming out on Dec. 12, which they describe as an authentic human and religious experience.

“Music can be sacred, but it can also be simply human – which is also sacred, just in a less explicit way with lyrics and themes,” Brother Timothy Danaher, one of the vocalists, told CNA in an interview with four of the band members.

“The New Evangelization needs all kinds of music, both the sacred and the human, to get the attention of people going about their daily lives.”

The band consists of 10 members from the Dominican House of Study and St. Dominic’s Priory in Washington D.C. It began as a lighthearted project with a focus on traditional Celtic music.

“The band itself was started by a couple of friars in our province,” said Brother Jonah Teller, who sings and plays guitar in the band. It grew out of a group of brothers who would get together to play Irish tunes, he said.

At first, the project was a fun excuse for the brothers to get together weekly and enjoy music. But as it grew from Irish tunes to more folk and bluegrass, the band began to perform publicly, receiving gigs for Catholics venues outside of the house.  

The name “Hillbilly Thomists” comes from a line delivered by Catholic author Flannery O’Connor. After her novel Wise Blood was released, she said people had identified her as a “hillbilly nihilist,” to which she responded that she was more like a “hillbilly Thomist.”

The album is eponymous – named after the band – and consists of 12 songs featuring instruments including the guitar, washboard, fiddle, banjo, and the bodhrán, an Irish drum. Eleven of the songs are covers of old-timey spirituals like “Poor Wayfaring Stranger,” “Amazing Grace,” and “St. Anne’s Reel.” The album also includes an original song, “I am Dog,” written by Brother Justin Bolger.

When asked how music corresponds to evangelization, the band emphasized that humans are both spiritual and physical beings, and that their spirits are lifted by beautiful images and sounds, especially when accompanied by Scripture-based lyrics.

“I do think music can enhance evangelization if done right. We’re bodily beings, so beautiful images and sounds can be good for us, can help lift our minds to God,” said Brother Peter Gaustsch, who plays mandolin, piano, and guitar.

The Dominican order has released several albums of choir music, but the band hopes that this project reaches hearts of its listeners in a different way.

“There are so many great old songs in this tradition that speak of God’s love, his mercy, his grace, and our hope in him,” said Brother Justin Bolger, who sings and also plays piano, accordion, bass, and guitar.

Among the songs on the album is “Poor Wayfaring Stranger” – an American spiritual which has been covered by artists including Johnny Cash and Emmylou Harris.

The wayfarer – or traveler – is an important image in Catholic theology, one of the brothers said, and cited examples from St. Thomas Aquinas and St. Augustine.

“The poor wayfaring stranger is all of us,” said Gautsch. “There’s a strong theme in the history of Christian spirituality of our lives as a kind of pilgrimage to our heavenly homeland.”

“There’s a loveliness and beauty that carries with it the longing for our heavenly home and the trials that can face us as we make our way towards the Lord, hopeful because of the promise of his love and mercy,” added Teller.

Gautsch said the song depicts the struggle that is part of carrying our individual cross and learning to rely on the graces Christ provides for the journey.

“Sometimes the way is hard and steep, as the song says – in fact, it inevitably involves the cross – but the path has already been trod by Christ, who goes before us to prepare a place for us.”

 

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