Following intense preparation, 17 youth pilgrims embarked on a long-awaited Pilgrimage with five dedicated adult leaders. After riding in vans, planes, subways, and buses, our group arrived in Rome at the first of four convents, where our rooms overlooked St. Peter’s Square and Vatican City. The group immediately set out, armed with paper maps, internet maps, and shared navigation duties and settled into a rhythm for the next seven days. We soaked up the beauty and awe of majestic cathedrals, we experienced the beauty and the rawness of the cities we explored (Rome and Milan). We were awed by the San Callista Catacombs, the Quo Vadis chapel, the Scala Santa (Holy Stairs), St. Peter’s Basilica, and the Vatican Museums. We climbed to the top of St. Peter’s to see all of Rome laid out at our feet. We all fell in love with Assisi, and reveled in the beauty of the San Damiano church that St. Francis rebuilt. We cherished The Hermitage, where St. Francis spent many days speaking with animals and reflecting on God’s creation.
Our beautiful Sunday Eucharist in the undercroft chapel of our Assisi convent fed us spiritually as we continued our journey. We prayed in the church where St. Francis prayed as a young boy. We prayerd at the basilica of St. Francis built in his honor, and at the Cathedral where St. Clare still rests. We learned much from our wonderful Assisi guide, Marco. We experienced the magnificent Duomo in Milan (the interior and rooftop), we marveled at the church dedicated to St. Ambrose, whose body has been in view in the crypt since 397 CE. We prayed in the chapel (San Sebastian alla Ossa) built with the bones of people who died from the Black Plague. We were all moved by the prayers we offered for our friends and family back home at the chapel of San Damiano, during our Eucharist, and in the magnificent Duomo in Milan.
The entire St. Peter’s community was with us as we carried you in our prayers. This was a Holy Pilgrimage, where many hardships were presented and dealt with. We walked a total of 68.9 miles, we struggled with disengaging from technology and the internet, we faced disappointments in scheduling problems, we supported each other when fatigued or injured, we got lost and retraced steps, we learned to love each other through all adversity, and to practice our Baptismal vows of treating each other with dignity and respect. We cried, we laughed, and we prayed. As the days rolled on, and we reflected on what we experienced and learned during our late night prayers, the discussions were incredibly rich and full of budding wisdom and spirituality.
After visiting the church of St. John the Lateran in Rome, one of our youth pilgrims remarked, “I have never before so clearly experienced God’s majesty and mystery.” Paradigm shifts were made in the core of these teens (and the adults, too) that will inform their lives forever. That is true grace and love. That is Christianity. Your generous financial support, your prayers, and your love made this Pilgrimage possible. The impact you have made on all the Pilgrims will not be forgotten. Thank you!
– Lyn Holt, Director of Youth Formation