The well-known Cathedral Choir of the Risen Christ awarded medals to some 60 members for their years of service just days after the group returned from a memorable pilgrimage to Italy.
During the 10 am Mass on June 17, apostolic nuncio Archbishop Leopoldo Girelli conferred bronze, silver and gold medals on 62 members with 10, 20 and 30-39 years of service respectively.
Three members were awarded the Emeritus Medal as well as a special papal blessing for 40 years of service.
According to choir director, Sir Peter Low, the 80-strong choir started this tradition when Archbishop Alberto Tricarico was apostolic nuncio to Singapore. Later nuncios – Archbishops Luigi Bressan, Adriano Bernardini and Salvatore Pennacchio – continued the tradition.
“The medals serve to remind the members to use their God-given talent in the service of God,” said Sir Peter.
The choir had just returned from their May 26-June 10 pilgrimage tour of Italy where they sang for Pope Benedict XVI as well as attended Mass at special religious sites.
These included the sanctuary chapel in the Duomo in Milan, the cloister chapel of the Basilica of St Anthony in Padua, the crypt of St Mark’s Basilica in Venice and the Pantheon in Rome.
According to Sir Peter, the choir “experienced the hand of Divine Protection early in the tour”.
On May 29, “for some unknown reason”, he insisted that the group leave Padua at 8 am instead of 9 am as scheduled.
“One hour after our departure, an earthquake struck along the route from Padua to Assisi requiring the highway to be closed. We escaped the earthquake and being stranded in Padua,” he told CatholicNews.
According to him, many people enjoyed the choir’s repertoire at the various places where they sang, such as in Lanciano where pilgrims from Vietnam, Korea and Germany were apparently moved to tears.
At the Scala Sancta Church in Rome, the Passionist Fathers requested that the choir sing in adoration of the Holy Cross instead of keeping the traditional silence as the group knelt its way up the Holy Stairs.
On the feast of the Holy Trinity on June 3, the choir sang for Mass at the Altar of the Chair in St Peter’s Basilica in the presence of Cardinal Giovanni Lajolo, President Emeritus of Vatican City State.
On June 6, the group arrived at St Peter’s Square for the papal audience. There they sang for the pope and the audience of more than 20,000.
“We were rewarded with a broad papal smile and applause from the seated pontiff” when the choir sang “Christus Vincit”, said Sir Peter.
On June 9, the group visited Monte Cassino Abbey, renown for Gregorian chant, where they sang an entire Mass in Latin.
“God looked after us the whole way through and we returned after 16 days blessed with perfect weather and happy memories of our sacred encounters to last a lifetime,” said Sir Peter.