With financial support from the Nanovic Institute, the Holy Cross Office of Vocations sent a group of students on a discernment pilgrimage to Rome during spring break. In addition to having time to reflect on their vocations and to meet Fr. Superior General Robert Epping of the Congregation of Holy Cross, the students enjoyed the experience in Italy.
I am forever grateful to Nanovic and to the Office of Vocations of Holy Cross for making this dream possible.
Having spent considerable amounts of time in the Middle East, I had a solid grasp of many of the places and people associated with the development of early Christianity and its modern Eastern denominations. However, I had really had no exposure to the Church of Rome and all the important sites specific to our Catholic faith. It was fascinating to learn more about the place in which the Catholicism we practice today was conceived, formulated and reformulated again and again!
It was great to also learn a little bit more about the Congregation of Holy Cross’s work in Europe, and a little bit more about its formative years. Many of these formative sites were stops on our whirlwind tour. Of course, our stay at the Generalate was a great backdrop for all of this. The hospitality shown to us was second to none!
During our time in and around the Vatican, it was inspiring to see how universal our Church is. People from all over the world, from all walks of life, and at many different stages on their journeys of faith joined us in St. Peter’s or at the papal events. It is awe-inspiring when one realizes that Christians have come to Rome for thousands of years to participate in the life of the Church, walking the same roads we traversed.
Going on pilgrimage always involves a form of travel. Typically, the destination of the travel will be a place of tranquility, set apart from the rush of usual existence. Hence, small towns with relevant religious history, such as Lourdes or Canterbury, tend to draw in pilgrims in droves. In view of this, choosing Rome, the immense, bustling capital of Italy, as a pilgrimage site might seem a bit unconventional. Yet for my part I found that the constant traffic, crowds of tourists, and urban busyness of Rome enhanced our quiet and prayerful visits to churches across the city through sheer contrast. Traveling to Rome, though, with its massive tourist industry, also brings significant expenses along with it, so I feel a special need to thank the Nanovic Institute for offsetting the costs for this pilgrimage. My gratitude is also owed to the Congregation of Holy Cross for arranging the pilgrimage, particularly those directly involved with our stay at the Generalate in Rome.
Probably the greatest blessing of the pilgrimage for me came from the chance to meet members of Holy Cross as well as other young men discerning a vocation to life in a religious community. Had I not been able to take part in this pilgrimage, I likely would not have met any of priests stationed in Rome, including the Superior General of Holy Cross, Fr. Robert Epping. In what was certainly one of the highlights of the pilgrimage, Fr. Epping explained the current constitution of their international religious community and expressed his hopes for their future. This moment very immediately spoke to me as a young man discerning God's call for my life. Being there personally, in Rome and in the presence of these dedicated men of Holy Cross, has helped me to clarify my values and aspirations. Perhaps more than forcing me to travel across the sprawling streets of Rome, the Holy Cross Vocation Pilgrimage prompted me to journey inward to examine the movements of my own conscience and what God might be leading me toward.
Our pilgrimage to Rome was a radically life-changing and eye-opening experience. We, as pilgrims, had the most amazing opportunities to explore our Catholic faith by visiting its earthly headquarters and by witnessing some of the most spiritually rich sites in the world. We also had the opportunity to grow in faith by praying in front of the relics of some of the most important saints in history, from some contemporaries of Jesus as Saint Peter and Paul to more modern Saints as Francis and Claire of Assisi, and even our own Saint John Paul II! We even went to an audience with Pope Francis! Throughout the trip, we prayed in the spirit of Holy Cross with Fr. Neil and Fr. Jarrod and we had the opportunity of our lifetimes to stay with the current successor of Blessed Basil Moreau, Father Superior General Epping, who asked us to call him Fr. Bob.
The trip was not only a life-changing and profound spiritual journey, but also, it was an opportunity to experience Italian culture through the best paintings and sculptures, amazing architectural marvels, and even by trying the best Italian food! I am forever grateful to Nanovic and to the Office of Vocations of Holy Cross for making this dream possible. I was changed by this trip by gaining greater appreciation of world cultures and by deepening my spiritual life, making it more well-grounded and opening my eyes to realities of faith. I will always remember this pilgrimage and I will never be the same! Thank you!!!
Marcus T. Haworth
In his book, Wishful Thinking: A Theological ABC, Frederick Buecher, a twentieth-century writer and theologian, writes: “The place God calls you to is the place where your deep gladness and the world’s deep hunger meet.” The Holy Cross Vocations Office’s “Rome Pilgrimage,” spring 2017, offered me the opportunity to meaningfully reflect on this statement -- that is, on who I am called to be. I realized the deep desire I have for contemplative reflection -- for meeting God in silence -- and have, henceforth, begun serious vocational discernment in religious communities, contemplating joining New Melleray Abbey -- a Trappist monastery in Iowa -- and the Congregation of Holy Cross. In addition to this, the “Rome Pilgrimage” helped me to see the importance of community, in the context of the Christian life, anew -- each man on the trip encouraged me to become a holier man, to turn from sin and to embrace the love of Christ. I would encourage anyone considering a call to religious life to discern fervently and seriously in communion with his brothers, recognizing his strengths and weakness and fitting them to “the world’s deep hunger.”
I was blessed to be one of the students on the Rome Pilgrimage. I would like to thank you so much for experience. To witness the beauty of Rome and our faith was an incredible blessing which has enriched my own faith and prayer life.
This past spring break, I had the opportunity to take a once in a lifetime journey across the sea to one of the holiest cities in the world, and witness first-hand the beauty of our Catholic faith alive in Rome. Through the generous sponsorship and funding of the Nanovic Institute for European Studies here at Notre Dame, I was able to step out of my bubble of the mundane everyday life, and immerse myself in a place that is radiating with the power of countless holy men and women watching over it.
Two weeks ago I embarked on a journey to Rome and Assisi with seven other students and two out-of-this-world priests. This was my second time to Rome (excluding one time as a several-month-old baby!) and my first time to Assisi. Witnessing the cities in the context of this pilgrimage, however, was an entirely new experience, and one that I have certainly grown from. I loved every moment of walking around the cities and visiting many many beautiful Churches and holy sites, but my favorite part was staying at the Holy Cross Generalate and getting to talk to the Superior General and the other priests and brothers who live there. They are each of them very inspiring men, and their witness has moved me forward in my discernment of the Holy Cross order.
Thank you for helping to provide me with this opportunity. Your support allowed me to embark on this trip and to have this incredible experience, of which I think everyone on the trip would speak similarly about.
This past spring break, I had the opportunity to take a once in a lifetime journey across the sea to one of the holiest cities in the world, and witness first-hand the beauty of our Catholic faith alive in Rome. Through the generous sponsorship and funding of the Nanovic Institute for European Studies here at Notre Dame, I was able to step out of my bubble of the mundane everyday life, and immerse myself in a place that is radiating with the power of countless holy men and women watching over it. In the short stint that I was abroad, I encountered Christ in a way I never thought possible, and discovered things about myself and my relationship with God that I had never even fathomed before. I came to Rome as a confused soul, stuck floundering in the endless sea of an uncertain future. But I left as a changed man, sailing confidently in those same waters towards a light on the horizon that I had not seen before. For just a few days I was able to stop for a moment and open the doors of my heart to hear the call of the Lord, and in a place as magical as the Eternal City, I couldn't help but enter into conversation with him. I will certainly never forget my experience in Rome: the amazing things I saw, the great friends I made, and the impact on my spiritual life will stay with me forever. I went on this Pilgrimage seeking guidance and answers, but I came back with so much more. I am forever grateful for the memories I made and the new relationship I forged with the Lord that will stay with me all my life and will lead me on straight pathways right into his arms.
Thanks again for all of your generosity and the great work you do!