A group of Catholic nuns from Ann Arbor, Michigan, will perform at the National Tree Lighting on Wednesday in Washington, D.C.
Viewers of Oprah Winfrey’s daytime talk show might recognize them as “Oprah’s nuns.”
NBC News called them a “choir of angels.”
The Dominican Sisters of Mary Mother of the Eucharist are teachers, but they are hitmaking vocalists, too.
Three of their recordings have reached the top of Billboard and Amazon’s charts, according to the lighting ceremony’s website, including the holiday album they released last year to mark the order’s 20th anniversary - “Jesu Joy of Man’s Desiring: Christmas with The Dominican Sisters of Mary.”
“Surprisingly for a group that doesn’t tour, the album has bested the likes of Celine Dion and Josh Groban, positioning it at the top of Billboard’s classical music charts for weeks since its release,” NBC News reported in December 2017, a few months after the album debuted.
Sister Joseph Andrew Bogdanowicz, one of four women who founded the order and music director for the new album, pointed out a difference between their album and others at the top of the charts last Christmas.
“I do think one chord that we really do hit is that longing for the human heart for that contact with God, however they understand God to be,” she told NBC.
In a YouTube video about the Christmas recording - which included original compositions the sisters had previously performed only in their own chapel - Brad Michel, the Grammy winning classical music producer who worked on the album, described the women’s music.
“One thing that struck me as soon as I entered the chapel and heard them singing is, they have a sound, a very, very special sound,” Michel said. “And it took me a while, but, there’s no ego here. They’re sisters. And I think that’s reflected in their music-making, This incredibly cohesive sound they make. It’s like silk.”
Michel said one of the nuns told him that “the chapel makes them sound good. But the reality is, they sing and the chapel sings with them.”
After one of their two Oprah appearances in 2010, National Catholic Register blogger Tim Drake, who had written about the order in his book, “Young and Catholic: The Face of Tomorrow’s Church,” wrote that these women “are a real bright spot for the future of the Church. No doubt the national television coverage will spur a few vocational calls.”
He noted that journalist Lisa Ling’s visit with the Michigan nuns for Winfrey’s show provided “an honest, fair, and rare look inside one of the Church’s growing female religious orders.
“In the videos, we get to see the sisters praying, playing floor hockey, teaching, and eating in silence. They talk about the families and jobs they left and the importance of silence.”
The report noted that the average age of the nuns then, in 2010, was 26. It’s now said to be closer to 30 - noteworthy and newsworthy given the aging of American nuns, a majority of whom, NBC reported, are in their upper 70s.
“We were founded in 1997 to spread the witness of religious life across the country in response to St. John Paul II’s vision for a New Evangelization,” the order’s website says.
The sisters “have always been a community interested in engaging with the culture,” wrote Aleteia, a Catholic news website, in 2015.
Their media exposure hasn’t been limited to Winfrey’s show. The tree lighting program lists a myriad of their media appearances - on the “Today” show, “NBC Nightly News,” “Good Morning America,” “Fox and Friends,” and several others.
By the time Winfrey checked back with them in 2015 for an episode of “Where Are They Now?” on her OWN network, their Michigan motherhouse was over capacity and the nuns were “building a new priory in the Diocese of Austin, Texas,” Aleteia reported.
They will perform at the lighting ceremony along with “American Idol” contestant Gabby Barrett, country rock band Locash, Christian singer Matthew West and country duo Thompson Square, according to the ceremony’s website.
The ceremonies are typically music-filled affairs.
In 2016, for instance, the entertainment included Chance the Rapper, Kelly Clarkson, Marc Anthony, James Taylor, Garth Brooks and Trisha Yearwood. “It’s like a Christmas edition of Lollapalooza,” President Barack Obama joked.