Musicians rejoice in memories of Italy

Musicians with ties to St. John Vianney Parish in Bettendorf sing at St. Peter’s Basilica in Vatican City June 25 under the direction of Eleanor Kiel, left, the parish’s director of liturgy and music.

By Lindsay Steele
The Catholic Messenger

A group of nearly 50 musicians with ties to St. John Vianney Parish in Bettendorf made a pilgrimage to Italy in June.

The musicians performed in a variety of locations, including St. Peter’s Basilica in Vatican City. It was a high-pressure performance made more challenging by last-minute requests from Vatican officials, said Eleanor Kiel, the parish’s director of liturgy and music. However, “we stayed calm under pressure and sang well for Jesus!” The group also spent time in Florence, Assisi, Orvieto and Pompeii.

Pilgrims learned a few basic Italian phrases before embarking on the trip but, in general, the language barrier was not a problem since many Italians speak basic English, Kiel said. The group’s tour guide, Mauro, navigated communication at the Masses and concerts.


Kiel said Italian audiences were fascinated by the group’s use of handchimes and often came up to choir members after performances to get a closer look. “Instruments other than organ are hardly ever heard in Italian churches,” she noted.

The musicians gave several impromptu performances during the pilgrimage, including one at a Roman vineyard. “I’m sure we ended up on someone’s TikTok page from all the cellphones out videoing us,” Kiel said with a laugh.

More than a month after returning to the U.S., pilgrims continue to rejoice in their shared memories of Italy’s faith and culture. Elly Hull said her faith life and heart have been overflowing with joy. It was “a mountaintop experience I had never dreamed of.”

Dan and Barb Drescher said they enjoyed the great food, fabulous historic places and wonderful group camaraderie. Singing at the Vatican and other beautiful church venues was “life and faith enriching,” Dan Drescher said.

Teresa Walter said traveling to Italy was “on my bucket list all my life. The trip was so special, singing with the St. John Vianney choir.”

Kiel enjoyed seeing relationships grow during the pilgrimage. “Pilgrims became closer with each other and realized their closeness to other Catholics who worship in the exact same way, just in a different language, realizing our closeness as a universal Church.”

Marilyn Schnell said she was grateful to the organizers for “a remarkable pilgrimage.”

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