St. John Vianney Parish plans musical pilgrimage to Italy

Musicians from St. John Vianney Parish in Bettendorf will make a music pilgrimage to Italy later this month.

By Barb Arland-Fye
The Catholic Messenger

Musicians from St. John Vianney Parish in Bettendorf have turned sadness into joy as they anticipate a music pilgrimage to Italy June 20-30, the planning of which began during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“During the COVID pandemic, we had this sadness while doing choir rehearsals on ZOOM,” said Eleanor Kiel, the parish’s director of Liturgy and Music. “We needed something to look forward to, something to set our sights on.” A music pilgrimage through Italy had been on Kiel’s bucket list of dreams. She surveyed the musicians to gauge their interest and then they began planning, saving money for the pilgrimage and getting in shape for traveling.

Kiel will lead her fellow pilgrims in song, sightseeing and faith enrichment in Rome, Vatican City, Florence, Assisi, Orvieto and Pompeii. Nearly 50 musicians and family members, ages 12 to mid-80s, are participating.


“We have the great honor of singing a concert in Florence at the Church of All Saints, a Mass at the Basilica of St. Francis in Assisi, a concert at St. Ignatius of Loyola in Rome and a Mass at St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome,” she said.

Preparing for the pilgrimage has been “a really good opportunity for our choir to work at a much higher level to really put our best foot forward. We had to learn to do A capella singing, which we don’t do a lot of,” Kiel said. They will sing a mix of classical and contemporary Catholic music from different cultures and also Sebastian Temple’s Prayer of St. Francis hymn, for which Kiel created a new arrangement.

The pilgrims will also take a guided SCAVI tour (the word means excavation in Italian) of the necropolis underneath St. Peter’s Basilica, where the tomb of St. Peter is located. Bishop Thomas Zinkula helped secure permission for the tour through his written request on the pilgrims’ behalf to the Vatican’s Excavation Office.

Bishop Zinkula noted that the pilgrims would sing at concerts and Masses, planned to attend a papal audience and to attend Mass for the Feast of Saints Peter and Paul at St. Peter’s Basilica. Pope Francis is expected to preside at that Mass on June 29.

“As part of their pilgrimage it would be my hope that they would also be able to experience the SCAVI tour,” the bishop wrote. He cited Kiel’s hopes for the pilgrimage: “By bringing our church choir on this pilgrimage to Italy, and hopefully on a SCAVI tour, I know that they will experience the awe, wonder, and Divine inspiration that this tour can bring. By becoming more energized disciples, my hope is that we can spread that love to our parish in Iowa, and reach out to family and friends who need the healing of Jesus, the Apostles, Martyrs, and all the Saints!”

Kiel also hopes the pilgrimage inspires the musicians “to build their relationship to the Church and to their sense of mission. We ask for the prayers of the diocese for a safe and successful journey.”

Send-off concert

St. John Vianney Parish in Bettendorf invites the public to a send-off concert on June 14 at 7 p.m. for the St. John Vianney Italy musicians.

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