By Seth Gonzales
Special to The Texas Catholic
Despite the news of Pope Benedict XVI’s resignation, the Bishop Lynch Catholic High School A Capella Choir is moving forward with plans to give a performance at the Vatican.
In 2010, the group received an invitation to visit and perform from Father Pierre Paul, the choirmaster at St. Peter’s Basilica and leader of the Capella Giulia. This year will mark the 500th anniversary of the Capella Giulia, and the Bishop Lynch A Capella Choir was asked to take part in the festivities.
“The invitation came in early December of 2010 and was enclosed in a Christmas card,” said Kathy Leos, who has been director of the A Capella Choir since 1983. “When I opened it up, I saw the letter from Father Paul inviting us to come to Rome March 7-14 and pretty much ran over to our school office and showed it to Principal Evelyn Grubbs and President Ed Leyden.”
This will be the second time in eight years the choir will give a performance in St. Peter’s Basilica. In 2005, the choir’s audition recording was chosen from among hundreds around the world and earned them the opportunity to perform at the Vatican.
A total of 76 students will make the trip, with an additional number of parents and school staff members joining them. The group has previously performed in venues such as New York’s Lincoln Center, the National Shrine in Washington, D.C. and various other shrines and basilicas throughout Montreal and Quebec.
For this year’s Rome trip, the choir has been raising funds through collective and individual fundraising efforts since early 2010. In addition, musical pieces were exchanged and agreed upon between Leos and Father Paul.
“We’ve had a few extra rehearsals outside school hours,” said Franklin Co, a Bishop Lynch senior and director of the men’s choir. “We’re doing a lot of pieces we’ve done in the past few years. We have a lot of seniors who know the pieces well, but we’re mixing in some new ones, too.”
The timing of Pope Benedict’s resignation means that in all likelihood, a pope will not be present during the choir’s performance at St. Peter’s Basilica. But that hasn’t dampened any spirits. For some, the possibility of visiting Rome during a conclave has them excited about witnessing a momentous period in church history.
“I think with the environment there, everybody is going to be anticipating this change,” said Anne George, a Bishop Lynch junior and the choir’s student director. “It’s a historical moment for the Catholic Church.”
Changes to the group’s itinerary are being anticipated, but they aren’t expected to alter the trip greatly.
“It might affect some of the tourist-y things of our trip, like whether or not we get to see the Sistine Chapel,” said Leos, who has been monitoring the situation from the beginning. “It wouldn’t change our plans much, except for the Wednesday morning papal audience, which we are presuming won’t happen.”
Even still, Leos said the magnitude of the moment is beginning to sink in for her students.
“In terms of taking a group from a Catholic high school to the seat of Catholicism, that’s an amazing experience,” said Leos. “We talk about it in terms of a pilgrimage and a performance. For a lot of kids, it’s a life-changing experience.”