Franchesca Alamo, National Catholic Reporter
In the heart of downtown Atlanta stands the Shrine of the Immaculate Conception. Save for the damage rendered by a few wayward shells between Union and Confederate forces during the Civil War, the Shrine — and its community — has remained upright and intact for almost two centuries.
In the early 1980s, the Shrine, in conjunction with the nearby Central Presbyterian Church, formed the volunteer-run Night Shelter, which, to this day, houses over 100 homeless men every night between the months of November and April. It was from this ministry that the Atlanta Homeward Choir came to be.
Dónal Noonan founded the choir six years ago.
"[The Night Shelter] truly is a living testament to the working Gospel," he said, "and I wanted to offer the refuge of music to the residents within the walls of the Shrine."
From its humble beginnings as a bi-weekly meeting of seven shelter residents, the choir eventually grew in popularity: in any given year, it boasts close to 20 performers.
A native of County Kildare, Ireland, Noonan first arrived in Atlanta in 2012. In his daily commutes, he encountered many of Atlanta's 3,000 homeless people. "I was disturbed," he said, "by the monotony of the lives of the people I saw on the street." So, he sought to do something about it.
"Music is a vessel that brings people closer to God, with the power to unite singers and listeners alike," he said. "I wanted to offer that to the shelter's residents, treat them as individuals, and inspire them to want to improve their situations."
Noonan now seeks to awaken the housed, or those who are not homeless, in a similar way.
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