By Heather Goldin
BU News Service
WASHINGTON– In just the few minutes it takes for them to warm up, the Archdiocese of Washington’s Papal Mass Choir already sounds heavenly.
The choir, made up of 90 men and women from across the country, will perform Wednesday during a mass lead by Pope Francis at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception at the Catholic University of America. The mass will serve to canonize Junipero Serra, an 18th-century Spanish missionary who founded a series of missions in California.
“To be part of such an historic monumental event is really, it’s a tremendous opportunity and it’s really exciting,” said Thomas Stehle, the choir’s principal music director. “But also, we put it in check because we have work to do.”
With just six rehearsals together before the canonization Mass, the choir is staying focused under Stehle’s direction.
“This is not just a historic moment, but a moment that will touch people’s hearts,” Stehle said.
A total of 330 individuals auditioned, but only 90 were chosen to join the Papal Mass Choir. Stehle says that the diversity of members in the choir is symbolic.
“It looks like the Catholic Church in the United States because it’s not just one group. It’s a mosaic really, of people from cultures that really only know each other in church, in some cases,” he said.
Mary Di Muro, 61, is singing for a pope for the second time.
“It’s such a blessing to be able to do it because we don’t get this chance often,” Di Muro said. “This is a chance that I will never have again, and I’m just so blessed by it.
“It’s literally a once in a lifetime thing as far as I’m concerned,” said Matt Scassero, 54, a second bass in the choir.
“It’s just a dream come true in many ways, since I was an alter boy.”
Scassero will join the 89 other choir members in singing a medley of hymns from the pope’s birthplace of Argentina, as well as songs that convey the pope’s message of faith and service to others.
“I have one gift, and that’s something I’ve been given by God and it’s my way of giving that gift back to him,” Scassero said. “To be able to sing for him, sing in church and get the congregation to sing and bring out their faith even stronger, and to do that in this setting is just phenomenal.”
In addition to the 90-voice choir, four other choirs will perform at the canonization Mass, including a gospel choir, an intercultural choir, the choir at the Basilica of the National Shrine and the Catholic University of America’s chamber choir.