Choral students from St. Anthony's High School in Huntington Station...

Choral students from St. Anthony's High School in Huntington Station and their advisors with Pope Francis Wednesday at the Vatican.

Credit: Ray O'Conner

Student choral singers from St. Anthony’s High School in South Huntington sang hymns to a papal audience Ash Wednesday at the Vatican — 80 guests of an enthused and animated fan down in front: Pope Francis.

The students along with parents, friends and school officials, are on a 10-day trip across Italy where they are visiting and performing at Roman Catholic churches.

On Wednesday, the group sang for nearly 30 minutes as Pope Francis greeted the sick inside Audience Hall in Vatican City, school officials said.

“I don’t even know the right word to describe it,” said an elated Brother Joshua DiMauro, OSF, the school's assistant principal and choral director, of performing for and meeting the pope.

He gave it a try anyway.


DiMauro, who has organized the annual trips for more than 30 years, said this is the first time the school’s students have been able to perform up close for the pope and for so long.

The students performed seasonal hymns in the spirit of Lent, DiMauro said. They even performed a hymn in Italian of the pope's namesake, "Peace Prayer of St. Francis." 

At one point, the pope rose from his wheelchair and approached the St. Anthony’s students, said DiMauro and assistant director Chris Farrell. 

“Chris said to me, ‘You know, you shook the Holy Father's hand,” DiMauro said. “I said ‘No, I don't think I did because I was too nervous. I was too afraid to shake his hand.’ But when we looked at the pictures … I actually did shake his hand.”

Farrell said the annual musical tours, which include nearly a dozen faculty and almost 30 parental chaperones this year, are typically to northern or southern Italy, but have included trips to Spain, Greece, France and China in the past.

This year’s trip had rocky beginnings. The group dealt with multiple flight cancellations last Thursday because of a power outage at Kennedy Airport's Terminal 1 and an airline strike in Germany. The group eventually traveled by bus to Newark Liberty International Airport for an overnight flight. They are set to return to New York by the weekend.

Before that though, the students will perform Thursday at a Mass in Rome at Sant'Agnese in Agone, and Friday at the Basilica of Saint Francis in Assisi.

At one point during their meeting with Pope Francis, the pontiff joked to Farrell about DiMauro flying the plane, not knowing all the group had been through.

“I don’t think he really understood the irony,” DiMauro said with a laugh.

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