Brother Joshua DiMauro, OSF, of South Huntington, New York, started the St. Anthony’s High School Choral Concert Tour and Pilgrimage in 1989 to provide his choral students the opportunity to perform in some of the most beautiful and historical venues in Europe. In his position as Choral Director, Brother Joshua also saw the trip as an opportunity for students to participate in an in-depth religious pilgrimage, visiting holy sites throughout Italy during the 10-day trip. Each pilgrimage focuses on either northern or southern Italy with tour guides providing impromptu lessons on everything from language and customs to cooking, dancing and popular traditions.
Brother Joshua grew up in the Bensonhurst section of Brooklyn, New York, in an environment imbued with Italian and Italian American traditions and culture. He knew that his students had to experience the beauty and history of the country believing, “It is imperative that our students come face to face with the art, architecture, music and Roman Catholic roots of Western Civilization that are found in La Bella Italia!”
St. Anthony’s Chorus has visited sacred sites chosen for their connection to the Franciscan order, including St. Francis’ tomb and the Porziuncola in Assisi, the Basilica and Tomb of St. Anthony of Padua and the home of St. Bernardine of Siena. They have also visited and sung at other sites such as Basilica San Marco and the Scuola San Rocco in Venice, Il Duomo, Santa Croce and San Gaetano in Florence, The Vatican, Saint Peter’s Square, the Sistine Chapel and Santa Maria Sopra Minerva in Rome, the Basilica of San Gennaro in Naples and the Cathedrals of Palermo, Monreale and Acireale in Sicily.
During their visits, students have venerated the tombs of the saints and participated in processions, singing the litany of the saints and providing the music for Masses. The highlight of each trip is the Papal Audience at the Vatican, where students sing a brief selection. The students and chaperones have had audiences with Pope John Paul II, Pope Benedict XVI and now Pope Francis, after which the choir sings at a Mass in Saint Peter’s Basilica.
In addition to the pilgrimage, students experience traditional tourist activities and have visited the Leaning Tower of Pisa, taken gondola rides in Venice, seen the sights of Rome and the Vatican and experienced the beauty and art of Florence. The ruins of Pompeii and climbing Mt. Etna also make regular appearances on the itineraries.
Students have also been fortunate to experience sites off the beaten path, such as the beautiful fishing village of Cefalu in Sicily, the medieval city of Stroncone in Umbria and the Tuscan walled city of Lucca, all of which made a lasting impression.
In 2017, the students had the honor of leading the Carnevale Parade in Acireale, an experience that cemented their relationship with both adults and children in the town. There is always time for fun on the trips and in the past, students have taken part in a gelato-making festival, made their own mozzarella, received tarantella lessons in Sorrento and folk dancing in Chiesatonda.
After 20 pilgrimages to Italy and with no sign of slowing down, Brother Joshua considers himself fortunate to have led thousands of students on this once in a lifetime opportunity. He commented, “As a proud Italian American Roman Catholic, I am committed to enlightening new generations of students to the vast cultural heritage that remains to be discovered first hand in the cities, towns, churches, museums, concert halls, piazzas, restaurants, stores, homes and farms and especially the welcoming people of Italy!”