RALEIGH, N.C. — As part of the year-long 25th anniversary celebration of St. Francis of Assisi here, pastor Mark Reamer led 50 parishioners on a pilgrimage to Franciscan Italy last month. Fr. John Boyd-Boland, OFM, a parish priest from Brisbane, Australia, on sabbatical at St. Anthony’s Shrine in Boston, assisted him.
“Assisi was spectacular,” said parishioner Kate Corsaro. “Imagine sleeping with the window open and waking to the sounds of birds chirping and church bells ringing. You then look out the balcony window to see the Umbrian countryside unfolding in the morning mist. What a glorious way to start the day!”
Pilgrims spent four nights and three days in the “city on the hill.” On May 4, they took a half-day guided walking tour from the Basilica of St. Francis to the Church of St. Clare, where the San Damiano cross hangs. On May 5, they visited the Portiuncola, the little church St. Francis restored in 1205, which is now enveloped in the Basilica of St. Mary of the Angels. After a special anniversary Mass on May 6, pilgrims took in the town as they wished for the rest of the day.
“To be able to stand in the same sacred places as St. Francis, St. Clare and St. Anthony was inspiring to say the least, and I felt humbled,” said Cynthia Cardello. “For me, it was a dream come true.”
Several things about the trip stood out to founding parishioner Bill Rhodes, “but foremost among them was the 25th anniversary Mass,” at which his wife, Anna Marie, and other deceased parishioners were honored. Nine staff members participated in the trip.
— Donna Smith is liturgical communications specialist at St. Francis of Assisi Parish.