Praised be Jesus Christ! This weekend you’ll hear about Father Sedlacek’s new assignment, as well as hearing the name of his successor. Please pray for the priests that will be on the move, as such transitions are always bittersweet. God willing, I’ll be starting my 8th year in this assignment and am grateful to God for all that I’ve experienced here. I was thinking back to the first parish pilgrimage in 2013 to Italy – that continues to be a very fond memory for me. In 2015 a smaller group went to the Holy Land and we learned so much about the Gospels during that trip. We went to Ireland in August of 2016 and thoroughly enjoyed the people, their culture, and the stunning natural beauty. This year’s pilgrimage ranks right up there in terms of the breadth of territory covered as well as the amount of time we spent on our feet walking to the various sights. After the big snowstorm we were grateful to get out of Marshfield on April 16th and were able to catch our direct flight to Paris. 50 of us from central Wisconsin and another 30 from Minnesota spent the next 10 days growing closer to God and to each other. And God was so good to us, most manifestly in the weather we experienced from beginning to end. It rained for maybe 20 minutes one day, the rest of the time it was sunny and 65-80 degrees – probably the nicest two weeks of weather I have ever experienced. Paris was a whirlwind of visits to the church of the Miraculous Medal and Saint Catherine Labouré, time to pray at the tomb of Saint Vincent de Paul, a quick tour of Notre Dame, a walk up Montmarte to the Basilica of the Sacred Heart, and a night in a hotel at the base of the Eiffel Tower. I managed to eat some escargot that first day – if it weren’t for lots of butter and garlic, I’m pretty sure I’d have a hard time swallowing a snail! The next day we took a VERY LONG BUS RIDE to Lourdes. We stopped to celebrate Mass at the tomb of Saint Martin of Tours and I’m always happy when saint and Martin can be used in the same sentence. Lourdes was wonderful and we fell in love with Saint Bernadette and her amazing wisdom and faith. If I didn’t already mention it, by this point we were realizing that the amount of walking we were doing was very impressive - someone showed me her fitbit and it seems reasonable to say that we averaged well over 10,000 steps per day. The drive from Lourdes to Spain was amazing, as we drove through the very picturesque and snow-covered mountains of the Pyrenees. Some of their mountains climb up over 11,000 feet and it was not a drive for the faint of heart. Spain was very different from France in that the latter is a farmer’s paradise. Spain by comparison looks more like our southwest states (e.g. New Mexico and Arizona). We visited the Marian shrine of Torreciudad (majestic in beauty) and spent a night in Saint Lawrence’s hometown of Huesca. A visit to the Shrine of Our Lady of the Pillar in Zaragoza was amazing, as was the night we spent in a restored castle in the small town of Siguenza. Two nights in Avila were just enough time to grow closer to Saints Teresa and John of the Cross (we prayed at the latter’s tomb in Segovia). By this time we were tiring of the constant activity, but the spiritual life we were trying to live gave us strength and true charity for the other pilgrims. Traveling with others can be very challenging at times, but is such a great opportunity for growth in charity. We at last entered Portugal and spent two nights in Fátima, which is a place everyone should visit someday. While I’ll be writing a much more extensive version of the pilgrimage for my Mom, that’s all we have time for in this column. God willing, we’ll offer a slide show sometime soon for those who would like to see some pictures. Thank you for your prayers – you were in our hearts at all of these amazing places.
May God grant us the spirit of being a pilgrim in this world, and may each day bring us closer to Heaven!
Your friend in Christ, Father Martin