Announcing the Good News of the Gospel on the solemnity of the Annunciation, Bishop Kevin C. Rhoades celebrated what he described as “a break for joy in the midst of Lent:” a Mass featuring worship music provided by the Pueri Cantores choir, who came together on the feast of Mary’s acceptance of her role in God’s plan of salvation.
At a Mass said at St. Charles Borromeo Church, Fort Wayne, the bishop was joined by students from across the Diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend who participated in the annual choral event, lending their voices to the liturgy. Begun stateside in 1953, Pueri Cantores, the official “youth singing organization of the Catholic Church” offers students the opportunity to learn traditional Church music and culture, according to the organization and Brian MacMichael, director of the Office of Worship. This year approximately 350 fourth-12th-grade students, selected by their schools’ choral leaders, participated in the tradition, which has been embraced by the diocese since 2011. MacMichael described the Mass that serves as the culmination of their hard work and practice as helping the students get a sense of “everything Church music and liturgy could and should be.”
Dr. Richard Robbins, director of choral activities at the University of Minnesota Duluth and choir director of the Cathedral of Christ the King, Superior, Wisconsin, serves as conductor for the American Federation Pueri Cantores. Speaking to Today’s Catholic at St. Charles, he echoed the importance of the fine arts in the Mass. “I hope the students walk away with a renewed sense of reverence and beauty that is the Mass,” he said. “It is so heartening for me to see young people joining their voices together in song.”
Local leaders agreed that beyond the opportunity to enjoy beautiful music at Mass, the program is good for the students. Terry Broberg-Swangin, associate for liturgy in the Office of Worship, said, “This opens up doors for them that might not normally be open.” Among those open doors is the opportunity to study music they may not have been exposed to otherwise: They also get the chance to meet students from other diocesan Catholic schools, a benefit appreciated by Amy Johns, associate superintendent for the Catholic schools. “What I love about it is that it brings both sides of our diocese together … in unity,” she said.
United in the notion that the event was more than just a day to get outside the classroom, the participating students appreciated many aspects of the opportunity. Michael Urbahns, a seventh-grade vocal enthusiast at St. Jude School, Fort Wayne, saw the experience as an outlet for individual expression. “You can be yourself. You can do what you want to do.” Fellow seventh-grader Amarea Chandler, from St. Aloysius School, Yoder, saw it as a chance to deepen her faith. “I … think it is beautiful to sing to Jesus,” she said.
Although the transferrable social skills gained by the Pueri Cantores Mass, noted by many as important, Ryan Michaels, a sixth-grader at St. Pius X School, Granger, also hoped to learn something that would make him better on the electric guitar he is learning to play. “It’s good for guitar — for learning the notes,” he shared.
Parental support of Pueri Cantores goes beyond the small participation fee, which is picked up by Notre Dame Federal Credit Union if a family is overly burdened by the cost. “I feel like it is a little piece of heaven to hear children sing,” said Billie Lima of Sacred Heart Parish, Warsaw, as her son was rehearsing prior to the Mass.
In addition to the reminder provided by the students of the beauty that can be part of the liturgy, Bishop Rhoades spoke of the holiness of the Divine Child remembered on the solemnity, the day Gabriel announced to Mary that she would become the Mother of the Son of God.
The joy of today’s feast is evident in your beautiful singing, the beautiful music of this Mass today. It reminds me of the beautiful music and celebration of the Jewish people when they would go up to Jerusalem and to the temple. Why were they so joyful? Because the temple was the dwelling place of God,” and the resting place of the Ark of the Covenant, the “special place of God’s presence in the exodus from Egypt and later in the Jerusalem temple.”
At the Annuciation, he said, Mary became “the special dwelling place of God in the new exodus.”
“Mary is the new Ark of the Covenant and the new Tabernacle of the Lord. In her womb she carries not the Ten Commandments, but the Word of God made flesh. She doesn’t carry the manna from the desert, she carries the Bread of Life from heaven. She doesn’t carry the staff of Aaron the high priest, but she carries the heavenly High Priest, Jesus.”
While all in attendance may have been thankful for the beautiful music of the Pueri Cantores choir, Bishop reminded them of an ultimate reason for joy: “We can thank Mary today for saying ‘yes’ to being His dwelling place on earth.”
The best news. Delivered to your inbox.
Subscribe to our mailing list today.