DE PERE (WITI) -- A huge honor for a priest at St. Norbert Abbey in De Pere! He has been chosen to write the lyrics for the official song, for an event Pope Francis will attend next year in Philadelphia.
"Hymns are like sonnets, or haikus. There's a form," Rev. Andrew Ciferni said.
Ciferni has written hymn lyrics before, but mostly Latin translations.
"I think this is the first time I've written a hymn from scratch," Ciferni said.
Ciferni had worked with composer Normand Gouin for more than two decades. A couple month's ago, Gouin called him up.
"He said 'I've written a melody, and I want you to write the words,'" Ciferni said.
Ciferni was asked to write the lyrics for the official hymn for the World Meeting of Families in Philadelphia next year, Pope Francis' first visit to the United States. It took the native Philadelphian all of two days to pen.
"And we submitted it. It was a competition," Ciferni said.
Chosen by the Archdiocese of Philadelphia and approved by the Vatican, 'Sound the Bell of Holy Freedom' had its official debut of sorts in Philadelphia Sunday, November 30th at Cathedral Basilica of Saints Peter and Paul.
"What really struck me that second is the lyrics -- and the music was written by the director of music of the National Shrine in Washington, D.C. This is heavy," Ciferni said.
The remarkable thing is, when he penned the lyrics, Ciferni hadn't heard the music.
Only knowing the meter of the song, Ciferni says he would write, then sing the lyrics to a different hymn with the same syllable structure to see if it would work.
The Saint Norbert grad, who recently returned from the Philadelphia area, says he's unsure if he will make the trek to Philadelphia next fall.
"I don't like those massive crowds, so what I've said is if they tell me I can have 15 minutes alone with the Pope, then I'll go," Ciferni said.