I am pleased that the SJ-R decided to publish a story about this unexpected gift, but the article contains several errors which I will here attempt to clarify.
First, in addition to the seven seminarians from the Diocese of Springfield in Illinois, two other seminarians studying at Bishop Simon Bruté College Seminary in Indianapolis also served the Mass: Luke Hassler of the Diocese of Evansville (Indiana) and John Paul Hennessey of the Diocese of Cincinnati (Ohio).
Second, the article states "the service was held early Thursday at St. Peter's Basilica in Rome." In point of fact, the Mass began at 9:30 p.m. local time, which have been 2:30 p.m. in the Midwest. For some, that might be early, but not for me.
Third, the article claims that the Diocese of Springfield in Illinois said "the pope's liturgical celebrations office contacted seminaries earlier this week, requesting that their students currently visiting Rome attend the Mass." This is not correct. The only contact from the office this week was sent to me, because I wrote seeking to confirm their involvement and also to take the place of their rector who, because of a family emergency, was unfortunately unable to come to Rome.
The article linked to this post on the Diocesan blog, which was first published on my blog. In my post, I write clearly:
The rector had requested that the nine seminarians "attend the Mass." This morning my suspicions after the response to his request were confirmed: they are serving this evening for His Holiness Pope Francis when he celebrates the Christmas Eve Mass.It was not the Pope's liturgical office who asked them to attend the Mass; the Office for the Liturgical Office of the Supreme Office accepted the request of Father Bob Robeson, the rector of the college seminary, that the seminarians be given tickets for the Mass. A representative of the office answered the rector's request, writing:
Ci è gradito communicarLe che la Sua richiesta di conivolgere nel servizio liturgical della Notte di Natale i nove seminarisiti che verranno pellegrini con Lei a Roma è stata accolta positivamente (We are pleased to communicate to you that your request to involve in the liturgical service of the Night of Christmas the nine seminarians who will be with you as pilgrims to Rome was positively received).The unexpected gift - as in the title of my blog post - was not that they were going to attend the Mass, but that they would be serving the Mass (even though they had already been informed of it).
They were instructed to be present for a practice Wednesday morning at 9:45 a.m. in the Basilica of St. Peter. Because they could not bring themselves to believe that they would actually be serving the Mass, both the rector and the seminarians simply thought they would be walking in a great procession with seminarians and priests (because they only requested tickets to attend the Mass). When I read the e-mail on December 19th - which was sent to the rector on November 21, 2014 - I knew they were not simply walking in a procession (unbelievable though it seemed).
Fourth, as I just indicated, they were first informed of the liturgical involvement on November 21st, not December 24th, as the article indicates. I waited to share the news both confirm with the liturgical office what the e-mail said and to allow them to tell their families.
I e-mailed Bishop Paprocki with the news on Saturday, but because, I, too, couldn't quite believe what I was reading, I told him I would confirm with him after the practice Wednesday morning (which I did).
Curiously, no one from the Associated Press or from the State Journal-Register contacted me or any of the seminarians for this story.
The seminarians made me very proud with their fine service at the altar and they were still in a state of great happiness and near disbelief last night.