“Open your hearts, embrace the graces, and let your life be changed.”
Those were the words of Mother Shaun Vergauwen, Mother General of the Franciscan Sisters of the Eucharist, to the young professionals on the opening night of the Italy pilgrimage.
As 19 young professionals gathered together for dinner with the Franciscan Sisters, I was struck by the reality that this wasn’t just a group of young people getting ready for a Carnival Cruise, this was different, this was special.
Mother Shaun talked about how much it took for everyone to get here (two of the pilgrims had to deal with a cancelled flight to Connecticut) and how much people have given of themselves to get ready for this journey. Mother Shaun explained that just by saying, “Yes” to this pilgrimage the young professionals have already opened themselves up to opportunity for grace. Mother Shaun explained, “right at the moment you said yes, you were already changed.”
Taking a pilgrimage to Italy is an extraordinary event. There are many details that each person has to take care of before they can go on this trip, but each person took that leap of faith. They left behind the busyness of their life behind and allowed for this time apart to find out what God is calling each of them to do.
Pilgrimage or a Vacation?
What is the difference between a pilgrimage and a trip? As the pilgrims prepared to make their journey to the heart of the Church, they asked the question, “what does pilgrimage mean?”
I was amused by the jokes that went around the room: What? This isn’t a luxury European excursion? And although my fellow pilgrims joked about what was expected for this trip, it was beautiful to hear the reflections of what “pilgrimage” meant to each of them.
There is a spirit of mission. This trip is not meant to be a vacation, it is meant to take us outside our comfort zones. It brings to light what it means to give of ourselves—like the martyrs. This is a time to be away from the regular schedule, and to say, “whatever you want God.” To be able to listen to God’s promptings and have the structure of prayer, going to Mass and adoring Jesus in Eucharistic adoration.
Sr. Sophia Peters, said “Going on pilgrimage is a body experience. When we go to a holy place we are walking in the footsteps of the people who have walked before us. To be in these holy places will change us.”
Please pray for the young professionals on this pilgrimage. Pray that we will be able to “open our hearts, embrace the graces and let our lives be changed.”