By Peggy Mattson
Our travel brochure stated, “We return home as pilgrims transformed,” and that we are.
Most of the daily Mass readings on our pilgrimage to Italy, ‘Partners in Faith,’ were from the letters of St. Paul speaking to our faith journey and growing as disciples. For our first Mass, we read, ‘You are no longer strangers and sojourners, but you are fellow citizens with God’s people and members of God’s household, built upon the foundation of the Apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus as the cornerstone. Through him the whole structure is held together and grows into a temple sacred in the Lord; in him you also are being built together into a dwelling place of God in the Spirit.’ (Ephes 2:19-20)
There were so many special moments for reflection and highlights on our 10 day pilgrimage to Rome, Assisi and Rimini. We received a Papal blessing from Pope Francis in St. Peter’s Square. We toured and prayed in the churches that are expressions of the foundation of our faith in Rome: St. Peters, St. John Lateran, the Sistine Chapel and the Vatican Museum. The church bells rang out as our bus made its way up the drive to San Vito church in Rimini, welcoming the delegation from Alaska to Fr. Pasquale Tosi’s home church where he was baptized. On the wall outside of the San Vito church they mounted a new plaque under Fr. Tosi’s, commemorating our visit. We had a multi-course lunch in their parish hall with approximately one hundred parishioners. We brought holy ground from Fr. Tosi’s gravesite in Juneau to the San Vito community, and they in turn gifted us with books and posters of Fr. Tosi and their town. We shared in Bishop Burns’ official visit to Bishop Francesco Lambiasi at the bishop’s residence in Rimini. The people of San Vito truly are our partners in faith.
Like all Italians on the Feast of All Souls, we made a visit to the cemetery and we prayed at the grave of Archbishop Pietro Sambi, former Papal Nuncio to the US. Archibishop Sambi had visited Juneau in 2009 for the installation of Bishop Edward J. Burns, and at that time made a special visit to the grave of Fr. Tosi — a missionary who coincidentally came from his own home region of Italy. We were met by the mayor of Sogliano and town dignitaries. The Bishop greeted the Sambi family and led us all in prayer at his grave. His family gifted the Bishop a book on his life. The mayor presented a book on the history of their area to the Bishop.
We prayed at the shrine housing the relics of St. Therese of Lisieux in the Church of St. Giustina in Rimini. Together we prayed the rosary on the bus as we traveled from Rome to Rimini. Assisi was a sanctuary of peace, and we walked in the footsteps of St Francis and St. Clare. As an aside, some of the ancient mosaics on the floors of the churches had familiar quilt patterns in their designs, such as Flying Geese and Ohio Star.
We were truly blessed to be a part of this pilgrimage to Rome, Assisi and Rimini.