Our February 2023 Winter Recess was a magical time for members of our high school choir who traveled to Italy touring and performing at various sites in Rome and Assisi, with Performing Arts Dept faculty, Mrs. Rosemary Rossi Clarizio '89, Mr. Sylvain Falipou-Karkari and Ms. Kelly Gentry. One very special event was certainly the Papal audience on Ash Wednesday where our group was fortunate to hear Pope Francis speak.
The choral works that the choir members performed included Santo, an Italian piece specifically requested by the headmaster at St. Peter’s Basilica, and Mendelssohn’s Lift Thine Eyes from the last movement of the oratorio Elijah. The choir sang beautifully at Mass at the Basilica of Saint Francis of Assisi, at St. Peter’s Basilica, and on Ash Wednesday at St. Augustine's Church.
The highlight of the trip was the visit to the Ursuline Sisters in Rome. Our group was welcomed at the majestic gate of the Ursuline Generalate by Sr. Mariangela Mayer. She led them into a simple yet elegant chapel with murals recounting the story of St. Angela and the founding of the Company of St. Ursula. Sr. Elisabeth Benit explained each mural and gently pointed out to the students that, by sharing the gifts of their voices, they are living the legacy of St. Angela. The Choir sang for a group of Sisters at the chapel altar.
Noelle Gayer ‘23 later reflected, “From the second we stepped into the convent, it felt like we had a sacred bond with the building and with the Sisters living there. On the tour, my favorite part was seeing the olive tree in the garden that we learned was sent to them from Israel as a symbol of thanks for protecting Jewish people in Rome during the Second World War.”
An excursion to Assisi offered the opportunity to visit the crypt that houses the tomb of St. Francis and to explore the basilica complex with its lovely stained-glass windows and paintings as well as the monumental frescoes painted by Giotto, depicting scenes from the life of St. Francis.
Cultural highlights in Rome included the Spanish Steps, Trevi Fountain and the Pantheon as well as the Colosseum and the Roman Forum, the Sistine Chapel and the Catacombs. It was certainly a memorable trip. Mary Cinguina ‘23 shared, “The choir trip to Italy was one of the best experiences of my life. I really enjoyed being able to go to many beautiful basilicas in Italy, especially St. Peter’s Basilica. Italy was so beautiful and amazing, and it has inspired me to study abroad in the future.”