DAILY CATHOLIC     MONDAY     June 15, 1998     vol. 9, no. 115


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Sounds of Vatican Choir stir congregation

          OCEANSIDE - The Mission San Luis Rey church is a little bigger today.

          Its stature swelled with a soul-stirring bicentennial Mass sung Saturday by 40members of the Capella Guilia, the first time in the Vatican Choir's 485-year history that it performed the liturgy in a church in the Americas.

          The mission's walls and roof were stretched to their limits by the rich tones of the chorale that has sung Mass every Sunday in St. Peter's Basilica since it was formed by Pope Julian II in 1513.

          The two-hour-and-15 minute Mass drew a crowd of 350 into the Oceanside church and an additional 700 jammed on both sides of the giant television monitor in Serra Center, where the momentous event was transmitted via closed-circuit television.

          Several dozen people sat in the adjacent cemetery to listen to the sacred music, written by Austrian composer Joseph Haydn the same year the mission was founded.

          "Awesome," is the only word Jim Schroeder, a bicentennial committee member, could repeat over and over when the birthday Mass was over. "I was at the concert Friday night and this was better. All that work (on the organizing committee) was worth it," he said.

          Dulce Fajardo, a San Luis Rey Parish member since 1965, said getting to the church at 5:30 a.m. - she was first in line - was worth it to hear the choir. "It was even better than I thought it would be," she said.

          Leony Patterson, who accompanied Fajardo, couldn't pick a favorite between Friday night's concert or the jubilee Mass.

          A third friend with the pair, Tessie Fernandez, said the Mass music was "touching." "It lifted your spirit up," she said. She also was looking forward to attending Saturday night's concert, a repeat of Friday's program that featured Mozart music.

          Father Ben Innes, the mission's guardian, opened Saturday's Mass with a welcome to everyone and recalled that "Two hundred years ago today, three Franciscan friars celebrated Mass here - and they rang a bell to invite the Native Americans to the service."

          The four church bells that were to be rung to announce the mission's 200th birthday remained silent because, as Innes reminded everyone, the Franciscans did not want to disturb a nest of owls in the tower.

          In his sermon, San Diego Bishop Robert Brom lauded the missionary work accomplished by the Franciscans and thanked the Vatican choir for coming "all the way from Italy to help us celebrate."

          The communion between choir and congregation was immediate Saturday in the mission church. Most of the worshipers sat on the edges of their seats when the choir sang, accompanied by about 20 Philharmonic musicians from Los Angeles and directed by Maestro Gilbert Levine.

          Linda Walters, one of the organizers, said she's heard the choir sing at its Rome home and "it sounds much more intimate here. The Vatican is just so big."

    [Editor's Note: The USA is big to the Choristers, too and they have earned a well-deserved trip to Disneyland today before their Air Italia flight returns to Rome from LAX later this evening.]

Article provided with permission by the North County Times and written by Cecil Scaglione

June 15, 1998       volume 9, no. 115


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