Seventeen St. John Vianney seminarians studying at St. Thomas’ Bernardi Campus in Rome will serve at Pope Francis’ Christmas Eve Mass.

The Christmas Eve Mass marks the nativity of the Lord and is traditionally celebrated in St. Peter’s Basilica. This will be Pope Francis’ third Christmas Eve Mass.

The seminarians received word Friday, Dec. 11, that they had been requested to serve by the papal Master of Ceremonies, Guido Marini. Jack Dingbaum, the RA for the seminarians in Rome, said they were filled with surprise and joy on hearing the news.

“Christmas came early this year with the news,” Dingbaum said. “Putting together Christmas, St. Peter’s and Pope Francis you can’t ask for a better Christmas gift.”

Father Michael Becker, rector at St. John Vianney, said this was an opportunity the seminarians would be able to cherish for life.

“Christmas is a feast of exchanging gifts,” Becker said. “God’s gift of the Christ-child Jesus to us, and our gratitude and worship offered to him; family members sharing gifts with each other … and in this year for these seminarians, it is the gift of serving the high Mass at St. Peter’s, in the company of saints, angels and Pope Francis.”

St. John Vianney seminarians have served previously at the Vatican’s Christmas Eve Masses in 2011 and 2012.

The Mass will be broadcast on television at 2:30 p.m. CST Thursday, Dec. 24, on Eternal Word Television Network (EWTN).

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