By OC CATHOLIC STAFF     1/7/2016

More than 1,000 young people from the U.S. joined thousands more from around the world to attend the 40th International Congress of Pueri Cantores in Rome Dec. 26 through Jan. 2. A highlight of the trip was singing for Pope Francis.

Attending from Orange County were choirs from Serra Catholic in Santa Margarita, St. Cecilia in Santa Ana, and St. Edward the Confessor Dana Point.

According to Marti Longo, Choir Director at Serra Catholic, the trip was a wonderful experience for everyone involved.

“My favorite moment was actually the final mass practice and audience with the Pope, held Dec. 31. Students from all countries were assembled in Salle Nervi (the hall adjacent to St. Peter’s basilica), where they practiced Mass songs and Christmas songs for Pope Francis. My students thoroughly enjoyed meeting students from other countries, and attempting to share stories about where they live.”

Longo says the students connected with those from other countries, even using the Google Translate app to communicate.

“The Serra students learned an Italian Christmas carol in preparation for the trip. The girls sang it for the their new Italian friends who were astounded and quickly joined in. It was proof that music has no borders, and touching to see their enthusiastic and kind behavior.”

The American Federation of Pueri Cantores, student singers in grades 4 through 12, their families, friends, teachers and clergy were part of the choral extravaganza. Choirs from the U.S. sang in several locations in Rome and Vatican City. Venues included the Basilica of St. John Lateran and St. Peter’s Basilica.

Two choirs from the Diocese of Orange sang for Pope Francis on Dec. 28 at the Paul VI Hall. They joined with 28 other choirs from around the world at various venues in Rome.

According to Fr. Thomas Franzman, Chairman of the American Federation and a member of the first American delegation to Rome in 1960, “What sets Pueri Cantores apart is the quality of the music, the great conducting and the beauty of the churches where choirs sing. It is the leading advocate for Catholic youth choirs and their conductors in the United States and encourages the leadership of youth in the Church today and in the future.”

The International Federation of Pueri Cantores, founded in 1944 in France, was officially endorsed by the Holy See in 1965 and currently is part of the Pontifical Council for the Laity.

There are about 40,000 youth and children in hundreds of Pueri Cantores choirs composed of boys and girls, ages 9 through 18 around the world. The American Federation of Pueri Cantores was founded in Chicago in 1953, is now headquartered in the Diocese of Orange in California, and is the second largest federation worldwide.

Pueri Cantores Quick Facts

  • International Catholic student choral music association headquartered in the Vatican with federations in 37 countries
  • Founded in 1944, approved by every Pope since Pius XII
  • The American Federation Pueri Cantores was formed in Chicago in 1953
  • Choirs include boys and girls from 4th through 12th grade
  • 40,000 youth choir members worldwide
  • 5,000 youth singing in Rome (more than 1,000 from the U.S.)
  • American Federation of Pueri Cantores is the 2nd largest federation worldwide after Germany
  • Pope Benedict XVI said: “You have an important mission for helping the people of God to pray with dignity, because sacred music is a ministerial office in divine service.”
  • Pueri Cantores: literal meaning is “Child Singers”