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Marie Rubis Bauer practices in the Cathedral Cultural Center at Cecilia Cathedral with members of the parish choir. Photo by Mike May/Staff.

St. Cecilia Choir invited to Rome; will help close Year of Mercy

The Extraordinary Jubilee of Mercy will hold special memories for members of the Cathedral Choir of St. Cecilia Parish in Omaha.

The choir will travel to Rome to participate in the jubilee’s closing Mass Nov. 20, the Feast of Christ the King, with Pope Francis at St. Peter’s Basilica.

They will join the Sistine Chapel Choir and as many as seven other U.S. choirs invited to the event to form a 300-member choir, said Marie Rubis Bauer, director of music for the archdiocese and St. Cecilia Cathedral.

"The invitation came just before Easter," she said, "and when I announced it to the choir, their response was jubilant."

The Cathedral Choir was recommended to the Sistine Chapel Choir by a representative of Corporate Travel Services, an agency specializing in pilgrimages to Rome, who had heard the choir numerous times, she said.

"But before we could say yes, we had to do research within our choir to see if people could get off work and whether we can afford to take this group of people," Rubis Bauer said. "You need to be able to go with a balanced group and enough singers.

"It’s not a small thing to make that kind of commitment, because you have to make it together," she said. "And to make a commitment in May as to who’s going to be able to do this in the fall … we had to start that kind of discernment, but we were able to put it together."

Thirty choir members plan to go, and another 24 people, including families of choir members and others, will accompany the choir on the pilgrimage.

It will require sacrifice and hard work, Rubis Bauer said. Singers will need to help with fundraising and pay part of their own costs, and musical preparation will be intense.

A committee of choir members and St. Cecilia parishioners is planning a number of fundraising events, Rubis Bauer said, including working concessions at local sporting events, dine-out nights at restaurants, and creating opportunities for large gifts from benefactors, she said.

People can learn more at stceciliacathedralmusic.org and mail donations, payable to "Cathedral Choir Pilgrimage," to Saint Cecilia Cathedral at 701 N. 40th St., Omaha, NE 68131.

And a music CD, "Journey to Mercy: Lent, Holy Week and Easter with the Cathedral Choir," will be available in mid-June for a donation of $20 or more at the St. Cecilia Gift Shop to help fund the pilgrimage.

Choir members will receive a sendoff and blessing at the 9:30 a.m. Sunday Mass Nov. 13 at the cathedral, she said, and begin their pilgrimage the next day. They will return to Omaha Nov. 21.

While in Rome, the choir will tour St. Peter’s Basilica (where they will enter through the Holy Door), the Sistine Chapel, the Vatican museums, Christian catacombs, other basilicas and historic sites. The group also will sing prior to, then attend a papal audience, and sing at the tomb of St. Cecilia in the Basilica of St. Cecilia and at a Mass in Santa Maria Church.

"When I announced the invitation, choir members immediately started thinking about the Year of Mercy and how significant it is to go to Rome, where the roots of our faith are, and to be with the Holy Father," Rubis Bauer said.

"This is a pilgrimage about being connected with the church. As we join with the Sistine Chapel Choir and sing from the treasury of sacred music, we reach across space and time," Rubis Bauer said. "We’re really excited that our heritage in Nebraska of 160 years can be connected with a choir whose heritage goes back centuries."

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