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The Little School That Could View Comments
By By Maureen Pratt

At IHM Elementary School in Los Angeles, Arvi Cova sings out as the choir prepares for July's World Choir Games.

ONLY A FEW BLOCKS away from Immaculate Heart of Mary School, traffic on one of Los Angeles’ most traveled freeways stirs up a constant, metallic hum. The side streets are noisy, too, as cars dodge or hit potholes and each other in the never-ending “music” of urban life. Yet, on a crisp, winter day, another gentler neighborhood sound is taking shape, a sound that calls to mind beauty and angels, not honking and the squealing of tires.

“Luuuu ... Laaaaaa.”

The tones are crystal clear and fresh, like a gentle spring breeze through tree branches.

Tucked inside the school’s auditorium, the boys and girls of IHM Children’s Choir prepare for competition at the World Choir Games, to be held in Cincinnati from July 4 to 14. The World Choir Games, dubbed the “Olympics of choral music,” bring together amateur choirs from countries throughout the world, includ ing Europe, eastern Europe, South Africa, North America and the Caribbean. It will be on American soil this year for the first time ever (see The Unifying Power of Music).

Choirs competing at the Games often have extensive performance experience, and many are regulars at the international level. But, for the group of 35 second- through eighth-grade children at Immaculate Heart of Mary School, the Games will be a first; they have never competed at any level. In fact, they are the only U.S. Catholic elementary school choir registered for the 2012 competition. It’s an unlikely opportunity for an inner-city Catholic school in Los Angeles to take the world stage.

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Maureen Pratt writes the syndicated column “Living Well” for Catholic News Service and is the author of six books, including Peace in the Storm: Meditations on Chronic Pain & Illness. Her website is maureenpratt.com.

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Josephine Bakhita: For many years, Josephine Bakhita was a slave but her spirit was always free and eventually that spirit prevailed. 
<p>Born in Olgossa in the Darfur region of southern Sudan, Josephine was kidnapped at the age of seven, sold into slavery and given the name Bakhita, which means <i>fortunate</i>. She was re-sold several times, finally in 1883 to Callisto Legnani, Italian consul in Khartoum, Sudan. </p><p>Two years later he took Josephine to Italy and gave her to his friend Augusto Michieli. Bakhita became babysitter to Mimmina Michieli, whom she accompanied to Venice's Institute of the Catechumens, run by the Canossian Sisters. While Mimmina was being instructed, Josephine felt drawn to the Catholic Church. She was baptized and confirmed in 1890, taking the name Josephine. </p><p>When the Michielis returned from Africa and wanted to take Mimmina and Josephine back with them, the future saint refused to go. During the ensuing court case, the Canossian sisters and the patriarch of Venice intervened on Josephine's behalf. The judge concluded that since slavery was illegal in Italy, she had actually been free since 1885. </p><p>Josephine entered the Institute of St. Magdalene of Canossa in 1893 and made her profession three years later. In 1902, she was transferred to the city of Schio (northeast of Verona), where she assisted her religious community through cooking, sewing, embroidery and welcoming visitors at the door. She soon became well loved by the children attending the sisters' school and the local citizens. She once said, "Be good, love the Lord, pray for those who do not know Him. What a great grace it is to know God!" </p><p>The first steps toward her beatification began in 1959. She was beatified in 1992 and canonized eight years later.</p> American Catholic Blog St. Paul talks about the Christian life as a race, and encourages us to run so as to win. So it’s not just OK, it’s commanded to be competitive, to strive to excel. But true greatness consists in sharing in the sacrificial love of Christ, who comes to serve rather than to be served. That means that this race St. Paul is talking about is a race to the bottom.

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