Picture yourself climbing the Mount of Beatitudes, or examining the oldest known map of the Holy Land – or participating in the Eucharist with a vista of the Sea of Galilee. Imagine traveling the same streets where St. Francis first gathered his band of brothers, or standing in the very place where Jesus performed one of His miracles. Pilgrimages to places such as the Holy Land, Rome, Assisi and other historic sites – where the Gospel pages come to life in the holy places where the stories unfolded – are being offered this year by Franciscan ministries, programs and religious institutions.
CTU Pilgrimage: A Biblical Journey Integrating Sites and Scriptures
For more than 30 years, Catholic Theological Union, the graduate school of theology in Chicago has been sponsoring pilgrimages and other inspiring travel programs led by its Bible faculty. Its 2019 schedule features pilgrimages and retreats to Egypt, Israel, Jordan, and the Holy Land — all of them open to men and women religious and laity and one led by a Holy Name Province member.
► Stories of the Old and New Testaments come to life in a pilgrimage scheduled for May 24 to June 2 titled “Walking as a Disciple: A Retreat in the Holy Land” – which features visits to nearly two dozen ancient biblical sites, among them Tabgha, an area on the shores of the Sea of Galilee where Jesus multiplied the loaves and fishes. This site-and-Scripture-integrated biblical journey will be co-led by members of the CTU faculty – Daniel Horan, OFM, assistant professor of systematic theology and spirituality, and Sr. Laurie Brink, OP, professor of New Testament studies.
Rooted in Catholic biblical scholarship, the journey connects history, archaeology, culture and spirituality by providing participants with the opportunity to walk the paths of Jesus and His followers in the land that inspired the Scriptures and is considered the foundation of the world. At each of the pilgrimage sites, Daniel will present reflections on Pope Francis’ call to walk as disciples, while Sr. Brink will provide historical perspective on the significance of the site-specific Scripture.
This pilgrimage retreat is for anyone, whether part of a religious community or a layperson, seeking a deeper understanding of the roots of Christianity. Participants will be immersed in a faith journey through the Scriptures that places them in the midst of more than 20 ancient biblical sites, among them Jesus’ baptism, the Sermon on the Mount and Garden of Gethsemane. Participants will have the opportunity for private and community prayer, peaceful reflection, and Eucharistic liturgy.
To obtain the itinerary and information about lodging, cost and other details, go to ctu.edu/event/holy-land-retreat-2019, or contact Ferdinand Okorie, CMF, director of CTU’s biblical study and travel programs, at firstname.lastname@example.org or 773-371-5521. The trip’s registration deadline is Feb. 1.
Franciscan Missionary Union: Two Pilgrimages to Italy
From spending time with orphans in Nairobi, Kenya, and working with HIV-affected children in a small town in India, to exploring holy places in Rome and visiting Holy Land sites, the Franciscan Missionary Union of Holy Name Province offers a diversity of pilgrimage missions. The organization, whose executive director is David Convertino, OFM, offers encounters to ordinary Catholics to help them experience the grace of Christ more fully. FMU promotional literature describes pilgrimages being designed to take participants out of their everyday, familiar lives and bring them into an unfamiliar environment, where they have the opportunity to encounter the extraordinary and experience God in a new way. During 2019, the FMU is running six trips, two of which are still accepting registrants.
In March, the FMU is sponsoring mission trips to Cuba for college students and for Cuban Americans seeking a deeper understanding of their faith and what it means to join in solidarity with the poor. A pilgrimage to the Holy Land in May offers a two-week inspirational journey with stops at some of the most ancient sites of biblical history. While these trips are full, registration is active for the two trips to Italy.
► Franciscan Missionary Union has introduced a new pilgrimage specifically for devotees of St. Anthony, titled “Walk in My Shoes: Anthony of Padua.” Registration is being accepted for this 10-day trip, which will take pilgrims through Padua and Venice from Sept. 3 to 12 – with visits to holy sites associated with St. Anthony’s life. Among others, they include the town of Camposampiero, where Anthony spent his final days and where two shrines are dedicated to him; the Sanctuary dell’Arcella, which preserves the room in which he died; Abbey of Santa Giustina, a 10th century abbey attached to a basilica that houses the remains of Padua’s Christian martyrs, and San Francesco della Vigna, one of two Franciscan churches in Venice and the site where an angel is said to have appeared to St. Mark when he was traveling through Europe. The pilgrimage — which ends in Venice — includes tours, prayer and reflection, according to Paul O’Keeffe, OFM, associate director of the FMU and HNP’s secretary for missions in evangelization, who last year co-led two FMU-sponsored pilgrimages to Italy.
► In October, Paul is leading a trip to Assisi and Rome, the annual pilgrimage that he has led for several years. The eight-day trip, from Oct. 8 to 15, will provide the opportunity for pilgrims to more deeply experience Saints Francis and Clare through visits to holy sites associated with the saints and their early followers. Visits are planned to the hilltop town of Greccio, where Francis and local residents reenacted the first modern manger scene in 1224; Chiesa Nuova, where travelers will see the remains of the house where Francis was raised and the jail cell where his parents imprisoned him for giving away his father’s wealth, as well as La Verna, where Francis was given the stigmata of Christ. A walking tour of Rome and a special excursion to the medieval Tuscan city of Siena is also part of the itinerary.
For complete itineraries, and to register for an FMU experience, friars and laypeople should contact Paul at email@example.com or 240-393-0532.
Franciscan Pilgrimage Programs: Excursions for Military Veterans, Spanish Language Populations and Others
Franciscan Pilgrimage Programs, the Wisconsin-based ministry of Franciscan Assumption BVM Province, has been leading spiritual experiences for 45 years in parts of the world where the seeds of Christianity were planted more than two millennia ago – and where Franciscans have been present for 800 years. In addition to general pilgrimages, FPP offers trips to the Holy Land for specific groups and organizations, including high school and college students, secular Franciscans, and health care providers. Its newest pilgrimages to Italy are customized for military veterans and Spanish speakers.
► Registration is underway for a nine-day pilgrimage to Rome and Assisi exclusively for veterans of the U.S. military. The May 23 to 31 pilgrimage, which includes visits to key historical sites such as St. Peter’s Square, the Basilicas of St. Francis and St. Clare, and the Shrine of San Damiano, offers opportunities for the Eucharist, healing, and renewal of Baptismal promises. Pilgrimage costs for military veterans are discounted, and scholarships are available.
“The service of our veterans to our country has been one of sacrifice – [and often takes] its toll on their spirit and faith,” says Fr. John Cella, OFM, director of Franciscan Pilgrimage Programs. “In violence and where life is threatened, one can easily… [question] God and goodness. Francis lived in a violent world and was a prisoner of war. The path of Francis and Clare may help our veterans make sense out of all the good and bad they have witnessed and felt while in the military.”
► A customized pilgrimage is also being offered for Spanish-speaking individuals. Titled “Francis and Clare of Assisi and the Gospel Adventure,” this 13-day (May 26 to June 7) pilgrimage to Rome and Assisi will be led in the Spanish language throughout the travel experience. Through Eucharistic celebrations, lectures, and historical visits – including Porziuncola, San Damiano, La Verna and other sanctuaries associated with San Francisco de Asís (St. Francis of Assisi) and Santa Clare de Asís (St. Clare of Assisi) – participants will enrich their personal relationship with God. “By knowing the stories of their lives, these two saints help fix our gaze on the ‘most high and glorious Father of mercies,” says a flyer promoting the pilgrimage.
► FPP is also offering a series of 13-day pilgrimages to Assisi and Rome scheduled in June, July and October – and like the Spanish-speaking pilgrimage, they offer lectures, opportunity for prayer and reflection, and historical site visits to iconic sanctuaries associated with Francis and Clare. According to a brochure, pilgrimages to Assisi and Rome have impacted lives since the 1970s with “their message of a living God as seen through the eyes of Francis and Clare on the streets where they walked.”
► Three pilgrimages to the Holy Land are also on the 2019 calendar: Holy Land and Jordan, March 7 to 18; Holy Land Classic, June 11 to 19 (integrates prayer and reflection, as participants follow in the footsteps of Christ), and Holy Land Expanded, Sept. 19 to 30 (which adds visits to Samaria, Jericho, Jacob’s Well and other sanctuaries). A brochure says these Holy Land pilgrimages enable participants to live the Gospel pages in the same holy places where they occurred, and that because the Franciscans have been present in the Holy Land for 800 years, they will help pilgrims “understand the events of history as well as the monuments of archeology they themselves brought to light.”
► Other FPP events scheduled for 2019 include: a pilgrimage (July 2 to 25) for men and women preparing to profess their religious vows; a leadership pilgrimage for laypeople serving in administrative, board and other management and governance positions at Franciscan institutions, and a pilgrimage for educators, staff and alumni of Franciscan colleges and universities. Additionally, an eight-day pilgrimage is being planned along the Southern California mission trail – part of a three-year program during which each of the 21 missions on the trail are visited. Fr. John says that FPP’s pilgrimages are not “a tour of places,” but rather “journeys of faith.”
For complete itineraries, information about travel and lodging accommodations, cost and other details, and to register for Franciscan Pilgrimage Programs, go to www.franciscanpilgrimages.com or call 414-427-0570, ext. 222.
— Stephen Mangione, a longtime writer and public relations executive based in Westchester County, N.Y., is a frequent contributor to HNP Today.
Editor’s note: Information about trips offered by parishes can be found on the websites of HNP parishes in the Our Work section of HNP.org.
- “Mission Trip Opportunities Expand Through the FMU” – July 21, 2015, HNP Today
- “Dan Horan Speaks at CTU Formation Symposium” – Nov. 28, 2018, HNP Today
- “SBU Pilgrims Visit the School’s Early Roots” – Sept. 10, 2008, HNP Today