The Newman University Troubadours recently took their third performance trip to Ruma, Illinois, to visit members of the Adorers of the Blood of Christ (ASC).
The Troubadours are Newman’s select choral ensemble and are under the direction of Deanne Zogleman, director of music. She first took the Troubadours to Ruma seven years ago and spoke about the inspiration behind that initial trip.
“These trips began as a suggestion from a sister at the Wichita center who told me that the Troubadours should visit the sisters at the Ruma Convent and Retreat Center. That first trip was a wonderful experience, and we try to make them as often as we can. Every trip is such a joy for everyone involved.”
Zogleman said that the trips are a wonderful opportunity to give back to the Adorers. She emphasized how beneficial the trip is to students and the sisters they meet.
“This trip gives the Troubadours a chance to give back to the sisters who began and continue to care for the university that they attend. And performing for them is the best way that we know how to give back. We get to bring joy and a youthful energy to them. It gives the students a chance to interact with the sister on a deeper level, and I love that the Troubadours have the opportunity to stay where the ASC began (in America).”
Zogleman described Ruma as a personal retreat for both herself and her students.
“There is a definite sense of peace that I feel there. It’s quiet and serene, and students and faculty don’t usually get to experience that because of how busy life can get. It’s a time for this year’s Troubadour family to bond because of how much time we spend together while we travel, rehearse and perform. It’s about sharing God’s gifts to use with the sisters. It also helps everyone on an individual level, and I feel that everyone finds a certain sense of peace when they experience Ruma. I try to give them enough free time to find their own peace, which is definitely important in the collegiate environment,” she said.
The Troubadours are a diverse group with members of several different backgrounds and interests, but they are a very tight-knit group, according to Zogleman. She thinks that the trips to Ruma have a huge influence on the ensemble’s family dynamic.
“Every time we have gone, there is a moment during the rehearsal process that I feel is life-changing for the group. I don’t know if something like that could happen outside of the beautiful sanctuary that is Ruma. We are just so blessed to experience it. I think that sharing the heavenly acoustics and making beautiful music together at such a high level of excellence brings about an immense joy. There is nothing better than the happiness that comes from singing with one another.”
The Troubadours’ audience included not only the sisters who live at the Ruma Convent and Retreat Center, but also members of the surrounding Red Bud, Illinois, community, giving some people their first interaction with Newman University.
“We have the opportunity to perform for people who have never had a firsthand encounter with Newman University. Even for some of the sisters, this is the only chance for them to interact with the students that they so fervently pray for. It’s a genuine blessing for them,” Zogleman said.
This year’s only freshman Troubadour, Richard Avelar, had an especially wonderful experience with the group and was grateful for the chance to visit Ruma with his fellow Troubadours, he said.
“The Troubadours have made me feel completely welcomed. Even though I’m the youngest in the ensemble, I feel a deep connection with my fellow singers. They definitely make me feel at home. We’re more than just a choir, we’re a family,” Avelar said.
“Trips like this one are important because not only did it open our eyes, it opened our hearts. I feel like we grew closer to each other every moment we were there. The environment played an important role; it was so open and peaceful, and all the sisters were so nice. They all had such a positive outlook on life and helped teach us how to live that way.”
For Avelar, the most meaningful part of the trip was performing for the sisters at Ruma.
“I think the most meaningful part of the trip was getting to sing with everyone in their amazing chapel. The lyrics of our pieces hit me harder than they did at home. The beauty of our music echoed back to us, and we experienced it in a way that was new for all of us.”
For senior Blake Lee, this trip was the second time to Ruma.
“My first experience in Ruma was absolutely amazing. The bonding and relaxation that happened there made the trip one of the most incredible experiences of my life. That trip was when I truly built some of my greatest friendships, and they have been growing stronger over the last three years. I’m sure they will last a lifetime,” Lee said.
“I think the biggest difference between my first trip and this one was my attitude. When I first went to Ruma, I was a freshman who had only been exposed to the college environment for a few weeks. I didn’t know anyone very well and no one in Troubadours at the time had visited Ruma. That trip was a new experience for all of us, and I created some of the strongest bonds that I have to this day. This year, I was the only Troubadour who had been to Ruma, and I had known the other members of the ensemble for a while. It was still a wonderful opportunity for all of us to grow closer together and build friendships that we didn’t have before.”
Like Avelar, Lee said the most rewarding part of the trip was the Troubadours’ concert for the Ruma sisters.
“We get to sing in one of the most beautiful chapels I have ever seen, and we get to sing for some of the sweetest, most amazing people who appreciate our talents a little more than everyone else. They are the most grateful audience I have ever been blessed to sing for. They have done and continue to do so much for us, and this is the best way we can return the favor.”
The sisters thoroughly enjoyed the Troubadours’ performance in their chapel. For Sister Janet Sue Smith, ASC, this was her first time watching the Troubadours at the Ruma Center. Smith coordinates liturgy and prayer for the sisters in Ruma and served at the Wichita Center as the director of community life and mission. She was thrilled for the sisters she serves to watch Newman students perform.
“I think the Troubadours bring such a fresh joy and energy to our sisters, and they’re delighted to see students of the university that some of them attended. The students are deeply connected to our community. Their music is absolutely beautiful and extremely well-performed. The beauty of youth is a gift to always enjoy,” Smith said.
Smith was especially thrilled to help organize the Troubadours’ visit to Ruma.
“I think it’s always good to take time and listen to the hearts of each other, and we tend to do that better when we have special events like this. We sisters have such a strong connection to Newman since we have been intimately involved with the university since the beginning. It makes us incredibly proud to see the wonderful things that students, especially the Troubadours, are doing today.”
Sister Barbara Jean Franklin was especially proud of the students who came to visit ASC community in Ruma. She was eager to show the students a different side to the Adorers than they may have seen at Newman.
“The Troubadours get to see the rural side of our community. Their trip shows the broadness of scope in who we are, and we have a chance to share another piece of our history with them. There are so many stories for our sisters to share with them, and there is so much to learn from their experiences,” Franklin said.
Franklin, who served as the regional leader for the Adorers in 2000 and sat on the Newman board of directors, described her happiness at welcoming the Troubadours.
“It’s vital that we keep making connections. We can show a piece of Newman University to the people who are here with us. We feel a sense of responsibility for the university and it’s the greatest reason that I get excited when the Troubadours visit. They are an important part of our future.”
The Troubadours are already looking forward to returning to Ruma next year to see the sisters and perform for them again. The fourth trip will serve as another opportunity for the Troubadours to spread the incredible joy of music with the passionate and loving sisters who support Newman University from afar.