By Barb Arland-Fye
The Catholic Messenger
Fifty-one people from the Davenport Diocese and beyond are set to witness the canonization of Blessed Teresa of Kolkata on Sept. 4 in St. Peter’s Square. Her canonization is the centerpiece of an eight-day Catholic Messenger pilgrimage to Rome and Assisi that begins Aug. 30. It will include walking through the four Holy Doors of Rome to receive a plenary indulgence in this Year of Mercy. Mother Teresa received the Pacem in Terris Peace and Freedom Award in Davenport in 1976.
This will be the first pilgrimage to Rome and Assisi for some pilgrims, including me, The Catholic Messenger’s editor. For Gretchen Atkinson of Wisconsin, the pilgrimage is a way to culminate her work with Blessed Teresa, whom she served with in 1995 in Kolkata. For others, the pilgrimage is an opportunity to honor the memory of a loved one, or to experience God in new and different ways.
Our spiritual director is a veteran traveler to Rome, Father Marty Goetz of the Davenport Diocese. In February, he was commissioned by Pope Francis as a missionary of mercy. Fr. Goetz serves as pastor of Ss. John & Paul Parish-Burlington, Ss. Mary & Patrick Parish-West Burlington, and St. Mary Parish, Dodgeville.
“I see my role as a spiritual guide who is also on a journey of faith with fellow pilgrims who are trying to come closer to God,” Fr. Goetz said. “I don’t know all the ins and outs of Rome or the Vatican and I’m looking forward to being with the men and women who are going, to lead them in prayer and to pray with them, to celebrate Mass and to also come closer to the Lord. And to ask God for the strength to be more loving and compassionate in the steps of soon-to-be St. Teresa of Kolkata.”
He had inquired about concelebrating the canonization Mass, but that is the role of cardinals, archbishops and bishops, so he will be in the crowd (estimated at 2 million) with everyone else. “But I am honored to be able to give holy Communion to the group that is going and to those around me.… To be able to give the Eucharist is wonderful, and an honor for me. It will be like receiving a pearl of great price!”
Other pilgrims shared thoughts with The Catholic Messenger about their decision to make this pilgrimage and what they’re anticipating as they prepare for it.
Tamie Cook of Holy Cross, Iowa: Tamie is making her first pilgrimage to Rome “to honor my mother’s life! You see, one year ago we watched our mom get weaker and weaker until her passing on Sept. 7, 2015. When I learned of this pilgrimage, without hesitation I knew it was where I needed to be on the first anniversary of mom leaving this earth.” Tamie anticipates being “overwhelmed with the Holy Spirit!”
Bruceanne Phillips of Des Moines: “My mother Lou Phillips is coming from Longwood, Fla., and I am coming from Des Moines. My mother is a lifelong Catholic and has never been to Rome. She is 83 years old, so it was time to take her on this trip. Besides, 83 is the new 63! Both she and I chose Terese as our confirmation names so it seems only fitting that we should be there for the canonization. This will be our first pilgrimage and I’m feeling very blessed to be able to share this adventure with my mom. I want this to be what it will be without anticipation or expectation.”
Jane Tadelski, Ss. John & Paul Parish, Burlington: “I decided to go on this pilgrimage to see Rome again. I thought it would be interesting to go on a pilgrimage with Father Marty, and (to witness) the canonization of Mother Teresa. I had been to Rome about 40 years ago and wanted to go back and this was a great opportunity.” Jane looks forward to “hopefully seeing the pope up close, and the canonization.”
Denise Crow, St. Bridget Parish, Victor: “Being in Rome for Mother Teresa’s canonization was my real reason to join this pilgrimage. Never being in Rome before, I anticipate so many people, seeing so many historical sites, and seeing so much faith there. Plus spending my 68th birthday in Rome will be a huge memory for sure.”
Kathy Joyce, All Saints Parish, Keokuk: “I celebrated a milestone birthday in June, and my children gifted me with this pilgrimage. Though it was not a pilgrimage, I was fortunate to have been able to visit Rome for a few days during a European trip as a young adult, and loved Italy. I am excited about being able to return to Rome, after many years. I especially look forward to be able to participate, in person, in the canonization Mass of Mother Teresa. I am looking forward to meeting new people and being a part of this extraordinary event.”
Ken and Chae Tisinger, St. Peter Parish, Buffalo: “We elected to go on this pilgrimage as a means to get closer to God by exploring the area that is central to our faith, the place our faith-filled leaders reside. It is known the world over as the headquarters, if you will, of our faith. We hope to experience God in new and different ways. We have tried to live a life of service but have done so little it seems towards showing our dedication to him. We may never get another chance to visit such historical places connected to our faith with such a faith-filled group as this.”
Heather Tieman, director of Faith Formation, Evangelization and RCIA for Des Moines County Catholic Parishes: “I decided to take this pilgrimage for personal spiritual growth and growth within my job. I feel this trip is going to not only open my heart for personal fulfillment but also give me a better sense of educating others in faith within my job as director of faith formation and evangelization. This will be my first pilgrimage to anywhere. I have never been out of the country. I am anticipating lots of people filling the Vatican and surrounding areas. But most of all the Holy Spirit is going to be there surrounding us and filling our hearts with so much joy and love. Also, with it being a Year of Mercy, we are getting indulgences from walking through the Holy Doors. I feel truly blessed to be on this trip and believe this is just a start to the beautiful journey God has planned for me.”
Vickie and James Striegel, St. Mary Parish, Sigourney: “This pilgrimage was suggested to us by our son. He saw it in the Messenger and thought we should go especially since Fr. Marty was leading it. He was our priest in Sigourney several years ago. This will be our first visit to Rome. Anticipations include meeting new friends among the pilgrims, seeing all the history and artworks around the Vatican, and especially witnessing the canonization of Mother Teresa.”
Ben Atkinson, Fifield, Wis.: He’s making his first pilgrimage to Rome because “I’ve always been fascinated with the history of the world.” Ben hopes “that I get to see a lot of the ancient things of Rome and where it is in the present.”
Gretchen Atkinson, Fifield, Wis.: “I would have gone anywhere for Mother Teresa’s canonization. I was in Kolkata with Mother Teresa and her sisters in 1995. It was a dream of a lifetime. I call this the culmination of that work with her.” Gretchen is making her first pilgrimage to Rome, with husband Ben. “I anticipate a strengthening of my Catholic roots. I also am very much looking forward to being in the presence of Pope Francis and, of course, the canonization, and visiting Assisi.”
Paula Logan, Ss. John & Paul Parish, Burlington: “Many, many years ago my husband and I went through the annulment process, and he always joked about being ‘specially’ blessed by the pope. And then about a year before he died, he was baptized by Fr. Marty and received the sacraments. He died May 2015. The pilgrimage was posted after that, and to me it was perfect timing. It’s hard to verbalize what I am anticipating. My heart and mind is open to just let it happen. My faith, prayers, family, friends, the physical, emotional and spiritual presence of the church have been my strength this year. People and events seem to enter my life when I need them. Angels on earth.”