Arts & Culture

Discover All Things Regional in Central PA’s art and culture scene. Join hosts Cary Burkett and Joe Ulrich as they make artistic discoveries throughout the midstate. From music and visual arts to theatre, museums, literature and more! Listen every Wednesday and Friday on witf 89.5 and 93.3 for features highlighting the best and brightest cultural happenings in the region.

Singing for the Dying

Written by Cary Burkett, Arts & Culture Desk and WITF Host | Jan 16, 2013 10:49 AM

With a father who was a concert pianist and a mother who was a dancer, Cass Jendzurski could be said to have music in her blood. She spent ten years onstage herself as an actress and singer. But an event which occurred in 1999 changed her musical path in a very different direction.

Cass was a volunteer driver for a group of cloistered nuns in Lancaster, the Dominican Nuns of the Perpetual Rosary at the Monastery of the Immaculate Heart of Mary.  One day, at the request of the Prioress, she drove a group of the nuns to visit one of their sisters in the hospital.  The aged Sister Martha was very ill, and was expected to soon pass. On that hospital visit, Cass was with the nuns as they engaged in a practice which dates at least as far back as the twelfth century. They sang over their dying sister in the hospital. Cass sang and hummed along with the nuns.   

Sister Martha passed away peacefully surrounded by the music. The experience had a profound impact on Cass Jendzurski . It led her to found a ministry she calls Songs for The Journey. She and a group of other singers volunteer their time to sing for terminal patients in their final moments. They now have 60 volunteer members involved who offer their services throughout Lancaster County at some 30 local medical facilities or hospices.

The volunteers spend an average time of about 30 minutes singing very softly and slowly at the bedside of the patients. They are a non-denominational group, and sing from five different repertoires depending upon the patient: Gospel & Spiritual, Catholic, Protestant, Jewish and secular.

There are also volunteers who do not sing, but who serve as “Companions for the Journey” to sit with the dying who are without the comfort of friends and family. Information on contacting or volunteering can be found at the Songs for the Journey website.

Below you can listen to our interview feature with Cass Jendzurski and hear some of the music.



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