Random Nun Clips

A musical ministry

Podcast Recorded: March 9, 2022
Alice Ann O'Neill

Alice Ann O’Neill was a professional cellist when she began discerning with the Sisters of Charity. Discover how she is living out a dual vocation.

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Show Notes

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Transcript (Click for More)+

Sister Rejane  
This Random Nun Clip is brought to you by A Nun's Life Ministry. I'm Sister Rejane, of A Nun's Life Ministry. Our guest today is Sister Alice Ann O'Neill, a professional cellist with a doctorate in performance and teaching. She is a Suzuki teacher, teacher trainer and composer. I want to circle back. When you were praying at Mass, that kind of pivotal moment about "Should I do performance, should I do teaching with cello?" And you heard, "Be a sister." And then with your discernment, was there ever a struggle, like "If I become a sister, I'm going to have to give up the cello." Did you ever have some of that?

Sister Alice Ann  
Well, I first started discerning with the Sisters of Charity where I grew up, because I thought, oh, that's logical. That's where I'm from. And so I've known these people since I was a child. That's where I probably belong. And so I started discerning with them. And  even though their community is filled with musicians, no one had ever really been a musician as their ministry. It was always, you know, on the side or at Mass. And so they couldn't really conceive of me, how I would make a ministry out of playing the cello. And I said, "Well, I've already been doing that." I mean, I was in my 30s. So, you know, I showed them how I could do it. And I was finishing my doctorate. So  I was very passionate about being a cellist, and trying to give of myself in that way. And so it really seemed like it wasn't working--my discernment with them--because if they were not okay with me, being a cellist, that sort of felt to me like they weren't okay with me being me. So I actually finished discernment with them before I started discernment with Cincinnati. And I waited three or four months in between just to make sure that I wasn't, you know, just jumping from one to another. And when I started applying to Cincinnati, oh my. People would send me emails and say, "Oh, we're so happy you're a cellist." And, "Oh, will you play for this mass? Will you play here?" And it was just like a completely different attitude towards me being a musician. They were delighted. And as I learned more and more about Elizabeth Seton, I mean, Elizabeth Seton loved to play the piano. And at the first school in Emmitsburg, the subjects she taught were French and piano.  

Sister Rejane  
I did not know that.  

Sister Alice Ann  
Yeah. And in our particular community, which we consider sort of the continuation of the original community, because people were missioned to Cincinnati and then later, the Daughters of Charity amalgamated the Emmitsburg community--but our community still has the spirit, in a way, of the original community that was in the American foundation. And so all of our sisters studied music, and there was always a music teacher at every single mission from way back in the 1800s. So even Blandina Segale, who's now on the cause for canonization, her major was music. And everywhere she was assigned to minister out West and in even in Ohio, she was always the music teacher.

Sister Rejane  

Sister Alice Ann  
Yeah. So our community's just,  filled up with musicians. So I guess I kind of fit right in.

Sister Rejane  
Sure. Sure. I just think that's important for our audience to hear. You know, oftentimes we talk about having to give up parts of our lives, but you have been able to really make it a both/and. Because it really is a dual vocation for you, being a cellist and a sister. I just think that's powerful.

Sister Alice Ann  
Well, playing the cello is a gift. And with all good, fruitful gifts, that comes from God. There's no doubt about that. And I've just taken this particular gift and tried to really enhance it and keep deepening it, and the whole purpose of that is for learning and growing myself, but also for giving to other people. So, to me, it's always been a ministry. And I think it's a very valid ministry because of it being a gift from God, to be able to even play music.

Sister Rejane  
To hear full episodes of A Nun's Life podcasts, visit the podcast page at anunslife.org/podcasts.

This transcript has been lightly edited for readability.

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