By Barb Arland-Fye
The Catholic Messenger
St. Teresa’s Canonization Mass, seeing Pope Francis in person, walking through the holy doors in Rome and visiting Assisi, where St. Francis and St. Clare embraced all of God’s creation, were among highlights identified by pilgrims who participated in The Catholic Messenger’s pilgrimage to Rome and Assisi. But some of the 52 pilgrims also identified personal moments that made their pilgrimage Aug. 30-Sept. 6 so memorable. This is the second in a short series of pilgrims’ reflections.
Patience and kindness
Bruceanne Phillips of Des Moines said she’s still trying to digest the whole experience, “but in a nutshell it was transforming for me. I had no idea what to expect. So many things give me pause as I reflect back on our days in Rome. Traveling with my mother, ‘Lou,’ and seeing her light up when we entered Vatican City, hearing her gasp when she saw the pope, and my heart melted when I saw the joy on her face when we had Mass at the Vatican. These are moments I will treasure forever. I had a few more days with her before she went back to Florida and I watched her so gently pass the prayer cards through her fingers as she prayed. It took me right back to those moments we shared together in Rome.
“The challenges and the graces for me were patience and conquering my lack of them. Learning how to be a caregiver and learning that the mother-daughter roles have changed. And through grace I can be the compassionate daughter my mother believes I am. I do need to thank everyone who kept a sharp eye, a kind word and a gentle touch for both Momma Lou and me. We couldn’t have made it without them.”
Peace and friendship
Jerlyn Bowers of St. Mary Parish, Sigourney, said the pilgrimage provided her with a sense of peace and friendship. Some of the friendships were with people from her parish while others were with people she met on the pilgrimage.
“It was very meaningful to be in Rome during this special Year of Mercy. It meant so much to me to attend Mother Teresa’s canonization ceremony. Years ago I wanted to meet or even just see Mother Teresa. I found Mother Teresa to be so amazing. I’ve followed her in the press and media for years. I have bought many of her books just to find out as much as I could about this amazing person.
“Mother Teresa cared for the poorest of the poor, the sick and dying in such terrible living conditions. I think of the years I have worked as a nurse and loved my profession, but I could not imagine how Mother Teresa did everything she did. I realize how selfless she was to do the work she did in those conditions. Mother Teresa was definitely a saint!!!”
The pilgrimage came with challenges, too. “I had just lost my brother the week before leaving. Another person on the pilgrimage had lost a loved one, too. It helped that Father Marty (our spiritual leader) said a prayer for them the day we left. We had Mass every day and after Mass I would light a candle for my brother.”
Since her return, “I have noticed a change in myself since after the pilgrimage. Every day I think about the events and my time spent in Rome. This was a once-in-a-lifetime trip and has affected me for the rest of my life. I keep reliving it — from Father Marty’s daily Masses to the canonization of Mother Teresa. I cherish each and every memory. I realize how fortunate I am to have experienced the pilgrimage.”
A deeper respect for my faith
Kathy Joyce of All Saints Parish in Keokuk said she was so happy to have been able to make the pilgrimage. “It was a fabulous week, shared with some wonderful people who were always available to lend a hand when needed. Father Marty was not only inspirational, but fun to be with. And our tour guide, Enza, couldn’t be beat!” Kathy said she took away from the pilgrimage “a deeper respect for my faith.” She appreciated seeing Pope Francis in person and personally taking part in Mother Teresa’s Canonization Mass. Kathy said she was “most impressed with all of the marvelous artwork: paintings, statuary, mosaics, woodcarvings, etc., and the upkeep and love of all of the old buildings and ruins. Here we are always ready to tear down and build new, not realizing the beauty of the old.”
The biggest challenge for her: “separation from the group, early morning wake-up calls and not enough free time.”