WOODLAWN — Women recovering from life’s most traumatic experiences will sing the national anthem Monday at the White Sox game against the Kansas City Royals.
The women at St. Martin de Porres House of Hope sing as a way to recover from addiction, violence and homelessness, and on Monday their Harmony, Hope and Healing ensemble will step in front of their biggest audience yet at Guaranteed Rate Field to open the baseball game.
“I’m feeling very excited,” said Marge Nykaza, how has directed the ensemble for 17 years.
She and many of the 13 singers said they’re not nervous about singing at a stadium that seats up to 40,615 people.
“We can only be who we are and when we sing from our hearts it will be perfect,” Nykaza said. “Will it be perfect harmony? Who knows?”
Amanda Longe-Asqué, a former resident and now recovery coach at St. Martin’s singing with the ensemble Monday, said she was told by her teacher as a young girl in front of her entire music class that she had a terrible “scratchy” singing voice.
She said she silenced herself for 23 years as she battled a drug addiction. She said she never expected that rediscovering music would help her heal those wounds and eventually put her on a stage in front of so many people.
“Before it was so much darkness, now it’s grace,” Longe-Asqué said. “It’s empowering instead of damning.”
She said her great grandmother was such a die-hard Sox fan that she remembers her admonishing anyone who tried to call her when the game was on. She said singing the national anthem will be a way to honor the memory of her great grandmother and it’s helped replace any nervousness with excitement.
If Longe-Asqué does have any jitters about singing, she will be able to look up and see 450 supporters in the stands.
St. Martin has sold 450 tickets to the game to its supporters as part of an annual fundraiser through a partnership with the White Sox.
Nykaza and Longe-Asqué said it’s St. Martin’s co-founder Sister Therese O’Sullivan who pushed the Sox this year to include the opportunity for the ensemble to sing.
O’Sullivan was modest, saying only that she made a few phone calls. When pressed though she revealed she’s been a lifelong Sox fan.
“I’m a Catholic first, but a White Sox fan second,” O’Sullivan said.
She said she will also be in the stands too for the game, one of her rare opportunities anymore to enjoy a passion for the national pastime.
St. Martin’s is now sold out of its tickets to the game.
O’Sullivan said people can still support St. Martin’s, 6423 S. Woodlawn Ave., by making a donation or volunteering. For more information, visit the group’s website.
Nykaza said the Harmony, Hope and Healing ensemble also accepts donations for its work at St. Martin’s and 12 other locations around the city, including Cook County Jail. For more information, visit the group’s website.