April 4, 2012 // Local

Choir makes a joyful noise at Pueri Cantores Festival

By Kay Cozad and Tess Steffen

More photos are available in the photo gallery.

The diocesan contingency represented just a small part of the thousands of youth singers from around the world in the American Federation of Pueri Cantores Festival. The 400-members of the Pueri Cantores Choir who sang at the Indiana Regional Mass are shown above with Bishop Kevin C. Rhoades, who celebrated the Mass March 26.

NOTRE DAME — With angelic voices raised, students from across the diocese joined at the Basilica of the Sacred Heart at the University of Notre Dame to perform at the second Pueri Cantores Indiana Regional Mass and Choral Festival on March 26. The musically-gifted students, from 34 diocesan Catholic schools, and several who are homeschooled, combined as one choir and represented just a small part of the thousands of youth singers from around the world in the American Federation of Pueri Cantores Festival.

Pueri Cantores is a century-old practice established in France in 1907, when a special boys choir was formed to sing during the liturgy. Currently there are over 60,000 youth from 35 countries that sing in Pueri Cantores.

According to Brian MacMichael, director of the diocesan Office of Worship, though Pueri Cantores is an international program, the diocesan festival is part of the American Federation of Pueri Cantores that brings youth singers together in festivals across many different states. This diocese, he reported, is one of the largest choirs in the American Federation and is “unique in its use of the Catholic schools.” Though the Mass is the centerpiece of the festival, the students spend the entire day together in fellowship, song and prayer.

The program, which was conducted by Paul French from Chicago, began with a choral prelude showcasing the rich, traditional liturgical songs each choir had been practicing at their own schools and with other choirs in their feeder high schools for the past several months. The inspired vocalists, ages 10 to 18, were identified by their school directors last fall as committed and talented singers. Each school was allotted 10 seats in the special choir that gathered in three regional practices that occurred in both South Bend and Fort Wayne.

MacMichael said the regional practices were held in each of the four Catholic high schools with the final rehearsal held in both cathedrals to give the over 400-member choir experience singing with the organ in a solemn Church environment.

MacMichael was pleased that this year’s festival showcased some new students, and said, “About half did it last year and the other half were new singers. We look for some new singers every year.”

The students were bussed in to the University of Notre Dame by 9 a.m. on March 26 and spent the day alternating between practice and breaks up until the Mass at 2:30 p.m.

Participating schools include: From Avilla, St. Mary of the Assumption School; Besancon-New Haven, St. Louis Academy; Decatur, St. Joseph School; Elkhart, St. Vincent de Paul School; Fort Wayne, Bishop Dwenger High School, Bishop Luers High School, Most Precious Blood School, Queen of Angels School, St. Charles Borromeo School, St. John the Baptist School, St. Joseph-St. Elizabeth Ann Seton School, St. Joseph-Hessen Cassel School, St. Jude School, St. Therese School, St. Vincent de Paul School; Garrett, St. Joseph School; Granger, St. Pius X School; Mishawaka, Marian High School, Mishawaka Catholic School, Queen of Peace School; Monroeville, St. Joseph School; New Haven, St. John the Baptist School; Plymouth, St. Michael School; South Bend, Saint Joseph’s High School, Christ the King School, Corpus Christi School, Holy Cross School, Holy Family School, St. Anthony de Padua School, St. Joseph School, St. Jude School, St. Matthew School; Warsaw, Sacred Heart School; and Yoder, St. Aloysius School.

The Pueri Cantores Indiana Regional Mass followed the choral prelude — which included Michael Praetorius “Jubilate Deo” — and began with a procession of close to a dozen pastors from several of the participating schools and Bishop Kevin C. Rhoades as the celebrant.

In his opening remarks Bishop Rhoades said, “It is wonderful to be at the University of Notre Dame and to see the children of the diocese gathered here. How appropriate to be at the university of Our Lady on this wonderful feast of the Annunciation of the Lord.”

In his homily Bishop Rhoades reminded those gathered, “Today we celebrate a beautiful feast of the Church, the Annunciation of the Lord, in a beautiful church, the Basilica of the Sacred Heart. And we celebrate with beautiful music, sung by you, children and young people from throughout our diocese who are “Pueri Cantores,” part of the international children’s choral organization of the Catholic Church. Today’s celebration is filled with beauty, the beauty of our Catholic faith.”

Bishop Rhoades spoke directly to the young people, saying, “Mary teaches us to believe in God’s great love for us. … She teaches us to say ‘yes’ to our vocation — to answer God’s call to be disciples of Jesus. She teaches you young people to open your hearts and say ‘yes’ if God is calling you to be a priest or a sister or to enter into holy marriage. … As disciples of Jesus, inspired by Mary’s faith, let each of us say in our hearts, ‘Behold, I am the servant of the Lord. May it be done to me according to Your word.’”

The exquisitely sung sacred music was woven throughout the remainder of the Mass and Bishop Rhoades concluded by congratulating the student choir members, saying, “This is like a taste of the heavenly liturgy that we all hope to enjoy. Your singing has lifted our spirits to the heavens.”

Family members who were able to attend the Pueri Cantores Mass festival were also gratified and deeply moved. Laura Furfaro, a parent from St. Joseph Parish in Mishawaka, remarked that “the singing was beautiful and enriching” and was proud that her fifth-grade son, Joseph, could be a part of it.

Betsy Magner, parishioner of St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Parish in Fort Wayne, imagined that “this singing is as close to heaven as we can get.”

Fort Wayne, St. John the Baptist Parish parishioner Donna Weber, who had two grandchildren in the choir, commented that “having the children from all over the diocese come sing in a unified group represents our Catholic Church perfectly.”

Student participants were pleased with their performance as well. South Bend Saint Joseph’s High School senior Alissa Plenzler delighted that “the tone was richer this year compared to last year.”

And Emily Sedestrom from Bishop Dwenger High School in Fort Wayne mentioned that it was “amazing being part of something huge and worldwide.”

The Mass was broadcast live on CatholicTV, based in Boston, and streamed live on catholictv.com.

* * *

The best news. Delivered to your inbox.

Subscribe to our mailing list today.