Rome pilgrimage brings proper end to centennial
By Kenny Keane, Globe staff reporter
Posted December 5, 2002
Celebrating the 100th anniversary of the Sioux City Diocese became even more
special for 151 members of the diocese as they were part of a pilgrimage from
Nov. 18-25 in Rome.
Bishop Daniel N. DiNardo and retired Bishop Lawrence Soens were among the
pilgrims who traveled to Rome. Along with Bishop DiNardo, the group consensus in
regards to the highlight of the trip was attending the papal audience in the
Pope Paul XI Center.
"Certainly meeting the Holy Father was a superb moment. I thought it was
particularly wonderful for us to go together at our centennial and to have the
audience with the Holy Father," Bishop DiNardo said. "I was able to
meet him briefly, and he had mentioned us in his little talk. So when I went up
to meet him, I said, 'I'm from Sioux City,' and he said, 'Oh, Sioux City.'
"For me to be able to speak, which I did briefly, to tell him of our
loyalty and affection for him from the Sioux City Diocese, that was a great way
to conclude our centennial."
The group had an opportunity to visit many sites during their visit,
including St. Peter's Basilica, the Basilica of St. John Lateran, as well as
many other basilicas, the catacombs, Pompeii, the Vatican museum, the coliseum,
the pantheon and many other sites.
Deacon Larry Sitzman recalled one particular experience that was special for
him as a deacon during Mass on the Feast of Christ the King at the Basilica of
St. John Lateran.
"While I was on the altar, I was paying attention to the beautiful gold
inlaid on the ceiling and the huge white marble statues of the 12 apostles on my
right and left the whole length of the basilica," he said. "They were
just larger than life. Yet, as I proclaimed the word and looked upon the
precious body and blood of Christ that we would be sharing shortly from this
altar, I realized it's the same Eucharist that we share back here in Sioux City.
"It's kind of a reminder that we belong to a larger church and that we
share the same faith and the same sacraments."
For Royce Ranniger, director of the operations of administrative services for
the diocese, seeing his former boss, Msgr. Kevin McCoy, who is the rector at the
North American College in Rome, was one of his goals during the trip.
"He actually hired me at the diocese," Ranniger said. "I just
made my own personal goal that I will, during his five-year tenure there, make a
point to get over there to see him, see what he does and get to understand some
things there. Then also to have him host us at the North American College for a
late afternoon/evening Mass and reception was really nice."
The trip was a first for Sitzman and Ranniger who had never visited Rome, but
for Father Daniel Guenther, pastor of Holy Family Church in Emmetsburg, this was
his third time. However, Father Guenther admitted that this trip was a unique
experience due to some additional perks.
"In light of it being our centennial trip and with two bishops along, we
were able to get into and do a few things that in the past, myself just taking a
group alone, we were not able to do," he said. "We had some great
places to have liturgy. At St. John Lateran in Rome, we used the pope's altar,
the main altar. In the past whenever I took groups over there, I was always put
in a side chapel someplace. I was never given the pope's altar. So that was a
"I would say the Masses through the week, I heard from many people, were
some of the real highlights with where we did them and just the whole nature of
the Mass. We weren't just visiting these great structures, but we were spending
time in prayer and worship in them as well, which made the trip so much more
than just a vacation for people. It was in every sense a spiritual
Father Guenther said that when he began visiting with Bishop DiNardo about
this trip two years ago, the reason for doing it as part of the centennial
celebration was to help people touch base with the larger, global church and to
realize that we are all part of something much bigger than Sioux City.
One of the things that Bishop DiNardo hopes the pilgrims received from this
experience is to see that Rome is the center of the church because of the
presence of the Holy Father.
"We can get used to that fact that when one lives in one small area of
the whole Catholic Church that that's all there is, but the church is actually
much more comprehensive than we imagine," he said. "I think other
people mentioned that to me as well - that being in Rome and seeing a large
number of people from various lands there at the Holy Father's audience or at
various parts of Rome gave them a sense of how broad and deep the faith of the
Catholic Church is.
"I think it was a blessing for all of us to be there. It was a great way
to say happy hundredth birthday to the Diocese of Sioux City."