WAKEFIELD — This week, 28 students from The Prout School are spending their February vacation in Italy, where they are participating in a musical pilgrimage to celebrate the Jubilee Year of Mercy.
The students, all members of the school’s concert choir, will visit five churches in their travels — including St. Peter’s Basilica and the church of Santa Maria Maggiore in Rome, the Basilica of St. Francis of Assisi in Assisi, and the Basilica of St. Mark’s in Venice.
The choir is also slated to sing at a Mass at San Carlo in Florence, where the group will present an evening concert as well.
Phil Faraone, music director at The Prout School, has been preparing the students for six months for this incredible experience of performing their repertoire of sacred music.
“This is not just a concert tour, but indeed a pilgrimage to Rome during and for the Jubilee Year of Mercy,” said Faraone.
“As a Catholic High School, we have taken to heart the words of Holy Father, Pope Francis and are traveling to Rome and beyond as Holy Year Pilgrims.”
Sam Williams, a junior at The Prout School, who will join his choir mates in singing a special hymn written for the Year of Mercy, explained that this pilgrimage will be a once-in-a-lifetime experience.
“I am excited to sing at all of the churches and show Italy what American choirs are like,” he said.
Last Thursday, before the group began the first leg of their international journey by boarding a bus to Boston’s Logan International Airport, Faraone said the group had been preparing sacred music that is appropriate for Lent and the Jubilee Year of Mercy. On Saturday, the group began their pilgrimage by singing at the regularly scheduled Saturday evening Mass at the Basilica of Saint Mary Major, Rome. Later this week, they will sing at the famed Saint Mark’s Basilica in Venice.
“We will also sing at the Basilica in Assisi and will sing for Mass and a Concert at Saint Charles Church in Florence,” Faraone said. “We will also visit and pray at the tomb of Saint Anthony in Padua, and are traveling to Siena where relics of Saint Catherine of Siena are located.”
The students, who are accompanied on the trip by parents, grandparents and friends of the Cathedral of Saints Peter and Paul in Providence — where Faraone also serves as cathedral organist — will be in Italy for 10 days. The group will also spend some of the time sightseeing, visiting such time-honored tourist draws as the Trevi Fountain and the ancient Colosseum.
Elsie Bansil, a Prout sophomore, shared that, along with singing, she is looking forward to participating in a private Mass at the tomb of Saint John Paul II while at St. Peter’s.
“This will be brand new experience for us. I’ve never been to Italy so I’m excited to see the different cultures and be able to pray at the Vatican.”
The students, who are known on campus as a tight-knit group, have rehearsed regularly as part of their course work at Prout and in preparation for the pilgrimage, while also adding in three hours of extra rehearsal time on Sunday evenings — including during the Superbowl — to prepare for this awe-inspiring pilgrimage.
“No one complained about missing the game,” Faraone said.