Italy pilgrimage: We're here!
The pilgrims from Pittsburgh have arrived!
Some came through Philadelphia, others through Charlotte, N.C., and Paris, but they all met up in Rome, the Eternal City and the center of our Catholic faith.
Their stories are many. Why they decided to take this journey at this time in their lives tells a lot about where they are in their lives and their faith journeys.
Waiting in the Pittsburgh airport were two couples who are life-long friends. Friends since third grade at St. Agnes School in West Mifflin, Barbara Starrett and Mary Clare Zedler brought their husbands, Dennis Starrett and Vincent Zedler. Barbara and Dennis are now members of St. Elizabeth of Hungary Parish in Pleasant Hills, and Mary Clare and Vincent are parishioners of St. Paul in Leesburg, Fla.
Both couples are marking their 48thwedding anniversaries by going on the pilgrimage.
After arriving in Rome, the four busloads of travelers put on their walking shoes after riding into Rome. They visited the famed Spanish Steps, the ancient Pantheon and popular Trevi Fountain. Many of the pilgrims enjoyed lunch in one of the sidewalk cafes in Piazza Navona.
The day’s highlight was the celebration of Mass in the Basilica of St. Paul Outside the Walls, where St. Paul’s remains are venerated. All of the pilgrims gathered to “officially” begin their spiritual journey in one of Rome’s largest churches.
Concelebrating the Mass was Fathers Kim Schreck, Jack Batykefer, Nick Vaskov, Fred Gruber and Brian Welding.
During lunch, Bishop David Zubik shared the legend about the basilica dedicated to St. Paul. The church is famous for its mosaics of all of the popes, including Pope Benedict XVI. The story is that when the basilica runs out of room to display the popes, the world will end. But chances are the basilica’s caretakers will somehow find room for more popes.
The tired pilgrims went to their hotel for a welcome short rest before the opening dinner of the pilgrimage.
Pilgrim companions and cousins Joann Redondo of SS. Simon and Jude Parish in Scott Township and Lynda Lazzaro of Our Lady of Grace Parish in the Diocese of Greensburg spoke at their dinner table about the joy at participating in the trip. They said they hope to strengthen their already deep spirituality by sharing the experiences with each other and the 160 fellow travelers.
This is Joann’s first journey to Italy and Lynda’s sixth.
They needed to eat hearty because tomorrow begins early with a tour of ancient Rome and Mass in the catacombs.