By JOANNE FOX
A pilgrimage to Italy and France this summer allowed seminarians and young men considering a call to religious life to further discern a vocation to the priesthood.
The Quo Vadis Discernment Pilgrimage, organized by the Office of Vocations, took place June 4-13. Among the participants were 21 pilgrims and two priests, Vocation Director Father Shane Deman and Father Brian Feller, chaplain at Kuemper High School, Carroll.
Elliot McLarty of Sioux City, a current freshman at Immaculate Heart of Mary Seminary in Winona, Minn., thought there would be value in participating in the Rome pilgrimage.
“The trip provided, not only an opportunity to visit various holy sites, but a chance to grow in faith and fraternity with the other pilgrims on the trip,” he said.
Seminarian Jack Waters, another freshman at Immaculate Heart of Mary Seminary, saw the value in participating in the Rome pilgrimage as “embracing the fact that sainthood is possible.”
“After visiting sites of some of the greatest saints that were once some of the greatest sinners, I came back with a new confidence in God’s call for greatness,” he said.
The term Quo Vadis is a Latin phrase, “Where are you going?” – a question posed to the seminarians and prospective candidates as they continue to discern the call to priesthood.
Major stops on the trip included Milan, Italy; Turin, Italy; Ars, France and Rome, Italy.
“The pilgrimage route was organized around some of the great saints,” Father Deman said. “For example, in Turin, we visited the tomb of Blessed Pier Giorgio Frassati, the patron of our diocesan discernment group.”
“I was expecting to be impressed with the incredible beauty and grandeur of European churches – which I was,” McLarty said. “But what surprised me most was seeing the Catholic faith from its roots in Rome. That had a deep impact on me.”
“What surprised me about the Rome pilgrimage was to see that the church is very much alive,” Waters said. “Our American culture tries to tell the church that Jesus and religion are a thing of the past, but Rome renewed my hope and excitement for my future as Catholic.”
Father Deman pointed out that each day, daily Mass was celebrated at churches throughout their travels. Plus, the pilgrims participated in a retreat day at Ars, near the tomb of the patron saint of priests.
“The greatest joys that I experienced were the unexpected graces that came from unplanned parts of the pilgrimage, like participating in a Eucharistic procession in Turin,” McLarty shared.
“The greatest joy in participating in the pilgrimage was to have Mass next to St. Peter’s bones,” Waters added. “To be so close to the man Christ built his church on is something I will never take for granted.”
Prospective candidates had a chance to travel with diocesan seminarians, learning about their own vocations and what seminary life is like, Father Deman explained.
“I trust that this interaction will help to build greater fraternity in our future clergy as the seminarians become mentors for the young,” he said.
Father Deman expressed his gratitude to Knights of Columbus Councils in the diocese which had been helpful in underwriting a portion of the costs for each pilgrim. Father Deman also extended thanks to individuals who contributed to the travel fund.