On Sunday, December 6, mere moments after a triumphant appearance on the Massey Hall stage, a subsequent SMCS Alumni Choir Mission swung into action; John Karapita (83), Michael Masangkay(’98 ), Dave Gatchalian (’87 ), Ken De Los Santos (’92) and Jim Codrington (’82) grabbed a cab at the Massey Hall stage door and sped off to Pearson International Airport where they were met by Air Canada pilot Colin Finlay (’82). The five jetted off to Vancouver, BC where they were joined by Joe Mulrooney (’82) flying in from Rochester NY, Jeff Cooke(’83) trekking in from Squamish BC, and Simon Isherwood (’82) of Vancouver proper. Together, these Nomadic Nine comprised “Operation Ordination”; a crack squad of singers assembled to sing at the Ordination of Hilmar Pabel (’82) to the Order of the Permanent Diaconate for the Vancouver Archdiocese.
Dr. Pabel -a History Professor at Simon Fraser University- had what he termed “a dream” of Holy Rosary Cathedral ringing with the same music and magic that so inspired him during his formative years at St. Michael’s Cathedral. He sent out a hesitant summons and nine of his Choir School brethren happily answered the call. The Ordination -a rich and poignant ceremony in itself- was immeasurably enhanced by a tightly-knit weave of soaring, jubilant voices masterfully conducted by Ken De Los Santos.
The singing was described by one congregant as “truly inspirational”, but the singers were themselves inspired to see a brother and friend answering the call to such a rich vocation; a poignant trip highlight for one Alumnus was receiving the Eucharist from Deacon Pabel in the Cathedral choir loft, moments after Ken De Los Santos’ and Michael Masangkay’s masterful rendition of Schubert’s Ave Maria.
Deacon Pabel is quoted as saying that deacons are asked to “remember that we are the living icons of Christ, who came to serve and not be served. That is my inspiration and that’s what I would like to be”. Deacon Pabel , in turn,has been -and continues to be- an inspiration to the men who were lucky enough to befriend him at the Choir School. He graciously and humbly embodies the school’s mission of promoting “the formation of Catholic men through the service of sacred music and the pursuit of knowledge”
The trip would have been logistically impossible without the “miraculous” intervention of several incredibly generous individuals and institutions:
-Air Canada Captain Colin Finlay who supplied remarkably reduced airfares and accommodation, and Air Canada who altered their policies to accommodate the special circumstances;
– Msgr. Smith and Jason DaCosta of Christ the Redeemer Parish, Vancouver who underwrote all airfare costs, and finally;
– three remarkable Alumni who graciously donated money to cover the hotel accommodations: Peter Hillar (’74 ), Chris O’ Grady (’82) andTom Winiker (’82).
In the waning moments of Operation Ordination, five of the Alumni -after speeding directly from the ordination to catch the Red Eye back to Toronto- were treated to a private tour of the Boeing 777 cockpit, courtesy of Captain Finlay. The moment was reminiscent of so many airport arrivals of Choir School past: a bunch of exhausted but happy singers reveling in the wake of a job well done.