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The student news site of Dowling Catholic High School

The Dowling Catholic Post

The student news site of Dowling Catholic High School

The Dowling Catholic Post

The Road Home

Dowling Choir Returns To Rome After 18 Years

“Traveling, it leaves you speechless and then makes you a storyteller.” -Ibn Battuta

At some point or another during your life there might be an opportunity for you to travel to another country. Should this opportunity arise, you should grab it with both hands and force it to happen. This year during spring break I took my first-ever international trip. I promise that wherever you are in your life any trip like this will change your life for good.

The Dowling Catholic Choir program took their trip to Rome, Italy, the center of the Catholic faith. The entire group consisted of around 80 kids from DC Singers and A Capella Choir and 15 chaperones. The tour was called “The Road Home” after a song in our concert repertoire. There is also a saying that all roads lead to Rome which fits very nicely.

The travel plan was no doubt difficult to arrange, but in the end, to keep the group together we left Dowling in two charter buses headed for O’Hare Airport in Chicago. We arrived in Chicago mid-afternoon, excited for what lay ahead. Once inside the airport, we went through checking baggage, and security, and finally, we began to board the plane.  

Skip through the eight tedious hours and the layover in Switzerland to the actual flight from the airport in Zurich to Rome. I watched as we flew over the Swiss Alps and the Italian countryside and beaches. That’s when the realization started fighting its way through my exhaustion and jet lag. I was going to land in Italy in a few minutes.

We got to Rome and moped in the airport for an hour waiting for errant bags. Finally, everyone was ready to depart from the airport. First up was mass, prayed by Father Downey in a special church. 

On the way to said church, we met the Purple Umbrella attached to the Hand of our Tour Guide. The Purple Umbrella guided us throughout Rome and you could never fear being lost when it was opened in full glory several feet ahead. 

Sant’Ignazio was stunning with delicate paintings of elegant angels and glorious apostles hidden in every nook and cranny of the church. We couldn’t help but stare, slack-jawed at the wonders of architecture and artistry this church had to offer. It was so amazing that it put a few members to sleep during our mass, or maybe that was jet lag. 

After dinner at the hotel, people shuffled back to their rooms for some much-needed sleep. Even though we were loading the bus at 7, not everyone made it onto the bus on time and so the wielder of the Purple Umbrella gave us a lecture on timeliness. 

On the first full day in Rome, we visited many incredible churches and buildings including the Vatican City, Sistine Chapel, and St. Peter’s Basilica, all filled with overwhelming grandeur. Our tour guide was a punctual local who moved us smoothly from a hallway full of medieval tapestries to a passageway full of maps of the world they knew thousands of years ago. 

Everywhere you walked there were ancient statues missing limbs and so much art that it would steal your breath away. Every square inch of all of the ceilings and walls was either covered in art or had wide windows with sunlight pouring in. 

After touring the Vatican Museum, we went into the Sistine Chapel. Even though there were crowds of people it was nearly silent. The kind of beauty present in the Sistine Chapel demands so much awe from you that most don’t have much energy for talking. There were also security guards stalking around shushing the whisperers and blocking people from taking pictures. 

After the Sistine Chapel, the tour guide moved us into the fresh air and into the line to get into St. Peter’s Basilica, the largest Catholic Church in the world. Viewing St. Peter’s Basilica is an emotional combination of traveling to another country, eating gelato, and getting your first car all at the same time. It is massive and covered wall to wall with mosaics and statuesque marble figures. After the stunning beauty of St. Peters, we went outside and were sent off with various chaperones for lunch, shopping, and, of course, gelato. 

Later, after lunch, we grabbed our choir robes off the bus and headed back to St. Peter’s where we sang at a mass. It was a profound experience singing in a church that size, however, the experience was clouded by the mass itself. When in Rome you are supposed to act like the Romans, even if that means listening to mass in Italian.

Tuesday was Ancient Rome day which meant we visited the Colosseum and Roman Forum. The enormity of the Colosseum was shocking especially when our guide told us that it would have been packed with hundreds of thousands of people, all there to watch the normal spilling of blood and death that made up their regular Friday night plans. 

The Roman Forum is essentially a field surrounded by picturesque buildings and in the field, there are intricately carved chunks of stone left over from the buildings that once stood there. After the Forum, we loaded our bus and headed a while out of Rome to the Catacombs, the burial place of many long-forgotten souls. 

The Catacombs were dark, cramped, and slightly mind-blowing because there are miles of underground tunnels and secret burial chambers that have been around since the 2nd Century A.D. and no one found them until around a hundred years ago. 

After the Catacombs, we visited the Trevi fountain and threw in our coins according to the tradition (one coin means you return to Rome and two coins mean that you find love in Rome). Most girls threw two coins into the fountain and then went shopping and ate some more gelato with their friends. 

That night we had our concert in the same church we had our original mass. It is safe to say that the experience of singing our repertoire in Rome was life-changing because we brought the audience to tears. Making strangers cry halfway around the world by singing is profound in different ways to different people, but everyone there was moved. 

On Wednesday, we returned to St Peter’s Basilica in the Vatican City and saw the Pope in his weekly audience. Security to get in was ridiculously long, and so we missed our scheduled time to sing for the Pope, which had everyone slightly upset. However, after the audience, we decided just to sing for ourselves and whoever else wanted to listen. Before too long, we were singing our hearts out to a group of strangers. 

After our impromptu, we went and visited all of the major Basilicas in Rome including the Basilica of St. John Laterine, St. Mary Major, and St. Paul Outside the Wall. In each Church, we were granted a slot of time in which to sing for whoever was in the church.

Thursday was our day to visit Assisi, a picture book village in the Italian countryside. This was my favorite day since the weather was wonderful and very clear and stunning views made for a truly spectacular experience. We also got to see the birthplace of St. Clare and St. Francis of Assisi.

We left for the airport bright and early on Friday morning and buckled in for a solid 24 hours of traveling from time zone to time zone across the ocean and finally back down in good old Chicago, Illinois. We hopped on our bus and began the tedious final stretch back to Dowling and our comfortable beds. 

A few days later in class, we spent almost the entire period talking about Rome, what we thought, how it affected us, and what our favorite parts were. I have never felt closer to a group of people than I did with the friends I made on that trip. Traveling is very special and it possesses the ability to alter your life permanently.

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About the Contributor
Ruby Leman, Staff Writer
Ruby Leman is currently a sophomore at Dowling Catholic. Ruby is involved in Show Choir, Ut Fidem, and varsity track. In her free time, Ruby enjoys reading, spending time with her little siblings, and listening to music. Her favorite musician is Taylor Swift and her favorite movie is Clueless. This is Ruby’s first year in the Dowling Catholic Post, and she is very excited to be part of it!

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