Bob Halligan Jr., a faculty member in the Bandier Program and the founder and lead singer of the international Catholic Celtic rock group Ceili Rain, was invited to Turin, Italy, to perform his original music for a papal gathering of more than 100,000 attendees. Pope Francis was in Turin to view and venerate the Shroud of Turin, celebrate a papal Mass, and to meet with and address the gathered faithful. Halligan was the only American music artist invited to perform for the events surrounding the pope's visit.
Halligan, an award-winning music veteran, considers himself to be "a radically serious Catholic and a huge fan of this pope" and thus viewed this whole experience as "one of the greatest blessings of my life."
As with all large papal gatherings, many activities and events are scheduled in advance of and during the pope’s arrival. Halligan received an invitation from the organizers to perform a Ceili Rain song for 10,000 people gathered in Turin's Area Vitali for Eucharistic Adoration on June 20 and for 100,000 people gathered in Piazza Vittorio the following day for the pope's arrival.
According to Halligan, the experience of performing at such notable events was enough on its own, but the blessings progressed to a whole new level when the singer was invited to a personal viewing of the Shroud of Turin, and following his performance for the pope's arrival, he was directed to Pope Francis' receiving line and was able to greet him and shake his hand.
“I told him that U.S.A. loves him so much,” says Halligan. “He said he was coming to the U.S., and then he said, ‘Remember me, please,’ which I took to mean, ‘Pray for me.’”
Ceili Rain has been a professional touring and recording group since 1995 and is currently celebrating its 20th anniversary. The band has released eight all-original recordings and has been recognized with 14 Unity Awards by the United Catholic Music and Video Association.