After receiving the generous invitation from the Sisters to attend a pilgrimage in Italy, each day leading up to the trip drew more excitement and anticipation. Even just thinking about the opportunity was overwhelming (especially considering this would be my first time traveling to Europe!). I knew the experience would be incredible – one of a lifetime and something I would embrace whole-heartedly. I had the pleasure of going on this journey with two of my colleagues, nine of the Franciscan Sisters of Allegany and many others who were passionate to learn more about and experience firsthand the life of St. Francis and his powerful devotion to God. Although the pilgrimage group was of larger size, and not all individuals were from the Catholic faith, we bonded very quickly and showed a genuine care for one another. This meant so much to me and allowed for a much deeper and connected experience as we embarked on this rich journey together.
Our first few days started out in the small town of Assisi, the birthplace of St. Francis and city where he grew up. We began exploring his life-changing journey from “riches to rags” after committing his whole being to Christ through a vow of poverty. It was through his actions and stories of such devotion and his willingness to give up his materials and worldly desires to be a true example and disciple of God. Later in the week, as we continued our pilgrimage, we were brought to a large Tuscan mountainous region called “La Verna”. We learned about
the many caves in the mountain that were used by St. Francis and his followers to pray and meditate. A small church in this same location is believed to be where he received the stigmata as a symbol of his new life when he truly started living to be Christ-like, showing compassion for all of God’s creation. Our group had the amazing opportunity to walk in a Catholic mass procession on the grounds, starting in the main church and ending in the room where the stigmata was said to have taken place. Participating in this really struck me and was certainly one of my post powerful experiences on the trip. The final destination and last two days of our pilgrimage was the city of Rome. It is here that we toured the Vatican and were given some free time to explore on our own.
Before leaving for the pilgrimage, I read the book “The Journey and the Dream” by Murray Bodo which really helped to illustrate and connect deeply for me the stories of St. Francis. The pilgrimage was a blessing and allowed me to reflect on my life and relationship with God in a different way. What a special experience to share with such a compassionate group of individuals! I am forever grateful and humbled to have been part of such a spiritual journey.
Pace E Bene