Proud Parish • Father Michael McClane blesses members of the St. Gregory the Great Parish community who will be serving in a variety of capacities during the visit of Pope Francis in Philadelphia – with several singing in the Papal Choir.  Joe Moore photo
Proud Parish • Father Michael McClane blesses members of the St. Gregory the Great Parish community who will be serving in a variety of capacities during the visit of Pope Francis in Philadelphia – with several singing in the Papal Choir.  Joe Moore photo

By Lois Rogers | Correspondent

On Sept. 27, the voices of the Papal Choir will ring out, 500-strong, in hymns of praise over the Benjamin Franklin Parkway, during Mass with Pope Francis.

When that moment arrives, hundreds of parishioners of St. Gregory the Great Parish, Hamilton Square, will likely be drawing close to Jumbotrons and big screen television sets in the hopes of catching a glimpse of the “famous four.”

That’s how their pastor, Father Michael McClane, referred to the quartet from their own choir at the end of Mass Sept. 20, as he prepared to bless them and their fellow parish volunteers who are about to set off for the great pilgrimage that is the Papal visit to Philly.

At that moment, one thing was perfectly clear: all eyes in the vast church had no trouble focusing on cantors David Maliakel, Emma Rhine, Dr. John and Susie Shaddy, Tanya Taylor-Norwood and Genesius Jaromsky as they stood facing Father McClane, who sprinkled them with holy water and conveyed his blessings.

Taylor-Norwood will be one of two extraordinary ministers of Holy Communion assistants at the Mass, along with fellow parishioner Mary Theresa Weil. Jaromsky was set to serve as a social media “digital diplomat” throughout the World Meeting of Families, Sept. 22-27. Through that volunteer position, she will be engaging with attendees, capturing historic moments and sharing those experiences through various social media platforms.

Smiling broadly, Father McClane said sending forth so many volunteers to the papal events marked a “great day for the parish.”

He asked everyone present to keep the group in their prayers – “pray for them as we bless them as pilgrims on a holy pilgrimage,” Father McClane said, calling upon God to shelter them in his protective embrace.

Following the blessing, it was clear how eager and excited the pilgrims are to be making this journey, not only for themselves, but for those they share worship and fellowship with in St. Gregory the Great Parish.

“We have such good feelings and wonderful support,” said Susie Shaddy. “We feel we are bringing their hearts with us. It is a wonderful thing.”

Her husband, director of sacred music for the parish, spoke of the good wishes and joy expressed by fellow parishioners which “makes the experience wonderful for us and the whole parish.”

Excitement has been building in the parish when the news of the ensemble’s selection came in August. All Catholic dioceses throughout the region were invited to nominate cantors, with four per parish allowed to audition. The response was overwhelming, according to the acceptance letter sent from Father Dennis Gill, director of the Office for Divine Worship for the Archdiocese of Philadelphia, Dr. Shaddy told The Monitor in an earlier interview.

The thrill of their being selected has been shared by the parish, the couple said.

“People are more excited because they feel a personal connection,” said Susie Shaddy, who shared that many have been bringing medals and rosaries to the singers and volunteers and asking them to hold them up for the papal blessing traditionally given during Papal Masses.

“I was thinking that it would be wonderful to sing in the choir,” she added. “I’ve never been to Rome or the Vatican. I never knew what that would