Forty-two members of The Ursuline School Honors Choir left for Italy on February 14, 2020 and returned to America a week later transformed by the cultural and spiritual experience.
Dr. Laurie Adamo, Director of the Honors Choir, reflected that there were many strong memories created on the trip. She shared a few of the highlights: “The moment we sang the first few notes of "Adoramus Te” in St. Peter’s Basillica and the look on all of our faces as the resonance of their beautiful voices echoed praises to God; receiving a blessing from Pope Francis on a private rooftop garden; taking in all of the sights of the Eternal City and learning from our incredible tour guide Elisabeth; singing in the amphitheater in Pompei that had been buried by the Vesuvius’ 79AD eruption; meeting with and singing for the nuns at the Ursuline Generalate and really getting to know them over pizza and sodas; climbing the Scala Santa on our knees, bringing us closer to the suffering of our Lord; seeing the 30 brave girls taking a two mile walk with me to find the only open Gelateria on a Sunday evening and singing for the store owner as he happily waited on them; dancing, singing and sharing their favorite moments with everyone at our farewell dinner.“
In addition to the choir trip, the week of February break ten students and two teachers spent a week exploring the artistic and cultural hub that is Florence, Italy, and several ancient walled cities in the surrounding Tuscan countryside.
Faculty chaperone Ms. Bacich described this Italian Immersion as follows: “We started off our stay experiencing the melodic sounds of evening vespers sung in Gregorian Chant at the central Cathedral or “Duomo” in Florence, followed by a Mass in the massive Medieval structure. After breakfasting on cappuccinos and brioche at our pensione that overlooked a piazza in the cobblestoned streets of central Florence, the students headed out for a few hours of full-immersion Italian lessons taught by native professors at the Leonardo da Vinci School located in the historical center of Florence.
Each day was punctuated by delicious meals of local fare: panini, pizza, pasta and gnocchi. We even visited a family owned “farm to table” restaurant where we were served freshly baked bread and homemade pasta. The girls enjoyed a Tuscan cooking lesson on their last evening and were able to feast on the food they helped prepare.
The local gastronomy wasn’t our only pleasure! We also feasted our eyes on the works of Michelangelo, Botticelli, Raffaello and other Renaissance masters in the Accademia Museum and Uffizi Gallery. Each student prepared and presented her favorite work of art to the rest of the group while touring the Gallery.
My favorite excursion was a day trip to the city of San Gimignano, a Medieval jewel nestled high in the Tuscan hills, known for stone towers and exquisite walls. Later, that same day we traveled to the stunning city of Siena with its unique scalloped piazza and the Basilica of San Domenico that houses the relics of St. Catherine of Siena. Inside the church, the girls lit candles and offered prayers on their journey to this grand woman of faith and doctor of the Church. Their prayers worked! We all made it back safe and sound with a little bit of jetlag, a lot of souvenirs and plenty of memories.”
Our students’ and faculty’s safety and well-being are always of paramount importance. This year, the Coronavirus outbreak in China prompted a review of travel precautions for every traveler anywhere in the world. We have been closely monitoring the occurrence of Coronavirus since the start of 2020 to assure that we are doing everything possible to keep our travelers and our entire school community safe. We have been in touch with the Centers for Disease Control and the New York State health department regularly and continue to follow their guidelines. We have also reached out to infectious disease specialists and take all necessary actions in order to keep our school community as healthy and safe as possible.