Choir has experience of a lifetime in Italy

GREENVILLE — Ninety-five travelers from Greenville recently completed an 11-day pilgrimage to Vatican City, Rome, Florence, Assisi, Pompeii, Naples and Sorrento.

Kathy Goben, music minister at St. Mary Magdalene Church in Simpsonville, formed the Carolina Catholic Chorale 18 months ago. The 52-member choir, comprised of singers, musicians, and a two octave bell choir, united the talents of four Greenville area parishes, St. Mary’s, St. Elizabeth Ann Seton, St. Mary Magdalene and Prince of Peace.

David O’Steen of Jackson, Miss., was invited to direct the group. Father Bert Connor, pastor of St. Mary Magdalene, traveled as the group’s spiritual leader.

The chorale was the principle choir for the Sunday morning Mass Dec. 28 at St. Peter’s Basilica. That evening, the choir performed a selection of Christmas songs, hymns and carols at St. Ignatius Church in Rome, beginning with a candlelight procession. Afterward, Msgr. Colino, Choir Master and director of Vatican Music, who attended the concert, joined the chorale for photos.

Several days of touring were followed by the highlight of the trip, the papal Mass Jan. 1, in St. Peter’s Basilica. The chorale received an invitation to sing with the papal choir, and to also perform two songs as a prelude to the Mass.

After leaving Rome for two days of sightseeing in Florence, a special Mass was held Friday morning at the Basilica of the Holy Trinity. Mass was celebrated by Father Conner, and the chorale sung Christmas selections accompanied by organ, flute, violin, viola and bell choir.

The final day in Rome was spent touring the major basilicas of Rome, including St. John Lateran, the cathedral of Rome, where the chorale sang and played for Mass.