The Catholic University of America and the Benjamin T. Rome School of Music will celebrate the 24th annual Christmas Concert for Charity on Friday, Dec. 6, at 7:30 p.m. in the Great Upper Church of the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception. Sponsored jointly by the university and the National Shrine since 1990, the concert benefits a different Washington, D.C.-area charity each year.

Admission is free, and early seating is recommended.

This year, a freewill offering will be taken for Bethlehem House, which provides Christian residential communities for adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities in the Brookland neighborhood of northeast Washington, D.C., and in Riverdale, Md.

Bethlehem House has a special relationship with Catholic University that dates back to about 1997 when CUA's Best Buddies chapter was founded, says Emmjolee Mendoza Waters, associate director of Campus Ministry and community service. Since then, many of the buddies have been Bethlehem House residents. On Wednesdays during the school year, about a dozen CUA students visit Bethlehem House, where they pray and eat with the residents.

Frank Persico, vice president for university relations and chief of staff, notes that Bethlehem House "is a place where Catholic University students have established lasting and supportive relationships with the mentally and physically challenged in the Brookland neighborhood. It is also a part of a larger project - Brookland Community Resources, Inc., which is supported by Cardinal [Donald] Wuerl." Cardinal Wuerl is archbishop of Washington and university chancellor.

Established in 1987, Bethlehem House is one of the founding organizations of Brookland Community Resources, a grass-roots organization that works to promote the full inclusion of people with intellectual and physical disabilities into all aspects of community life.

The first portion of the concert features the Choir of the Basilica, conducted by Peter Latona, director of music; performing in the second half are The Catholic University of America Chamber Choir, University Singers, University Chorus, and the CUA Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Leo Nestor, Justine Bayard Ward Professor and director of choral studies and the Institute of Sacred Music.

As in the past 13 years, the concert will feature the premiere of a new work by a CUA student or faculty member. This year's performance features the premiere of "The Heavens Rained" by Erik Abrahamson, a second-year student in the Master of Music in Composition program.

David Elliott, a first-year doctoral student in sacred music and graduate assistant in music and liturgy at Campus Ministry, has orchestrated the villancicos "Es nasçido, dinos quien" and "Rey a quien reyes adoran."

During the concert, the audience will be invited to join the chorus, orchestra, and the great organs of the Basilica in singing the traditional carols "O Come, All Ye Faithful" and "Hark! The Herald Angels Sing." The concert concludes with "Hallelujah" from George Frideric Handel's "Messiah" in Mozart's orchestration.

The concert will air on EWTN on Wednesday, Dec. 25, at 11 p.m.; Sunday, Dec. 29, at 1:30 p.m.; and Tuesday, Dec. 31, at 10:30 p.m.

Free parking is available at the Basilica Harewood Road Parking Lot. For more information on the concert, visit or