St. Finbar Church

Judi Siirila, left, plays Bernadette, and Danielle Rayne is the Virgin Mary in the musical "Lost and Found -- The Trial of St. Bernadette" at St. Finbar Church. (Photo Courtesy of Joyce Rudolph / February 19, 2013)

Church member and professional conductor and composer Rhonda Kess has written a musical based on the story of St. Bernadette of Lourdes that will have its world premiere this week at St. Finbar Church.

The production, “Lost and Found — The Trial of St. Bernadette,” is a fundraiser with proceeds benefiting youth activities, like retreats, sports programs, filmmaking projects, book groups and others that provide positive influences, Kess said.

While it is based on a religious story and produced in a church, Kess said, one need not be Catholic to enjoy the production. Set in modern times, the story has a modern spin and accessible score.

“The music is Lerner and Loewe meets Puccini,” Kess said.

Bernadette Soubirous was born in 1844 in Lourdes, France. At 14, her visions of the Virgin Mary in a grotto met skepticism from city officials. Her holy assignments were to encourage pilgrimages to the area, discover the healing waters there and urge religious leaders to build a chapel. Millions of people still flock to Lourdes today to partake in the springs and attend the basilica, Kess said. Bernadette was canonized as a saint in 1933 by Pope Pius XI.

Kess has been intrigued by the story for years and collaborated on a new version with her friend Dale Kiken. In their telling of this story, Bernadette is on trial and her witnesses are St. Francis, St. Joan of Arc, St. Anthony and her secret-weapon witness is the Virgin Mary. Adjudicating the trial is Sir Thomas Moore, who is the patron saint of lawyers.

“In our story, the saints are deciding does this young girl deserve to be let into the catalog of saints, and of course I don't want to give it away, they will just have to come and see the show,” Kess said. “But we want to ask the question what made a saint then and what makes a saint now.”

While the subject is serious, Kess promises there is a lot of comic relief in the show.

Showtimes are 7 p.m. Thursday and 2:30 p.m. Saturday in the sanctuary, 2010 W. Olive Ave. Tickets are $15 and $25 and can be purchased by calling (818) 846-6251.

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JOYCE RUDOLPH can be contacted at rudolphjoyce10@gmail.com.