25th Ordination Anniversary Pilgrimage to Rome & Assisi with Father Tom Voorhies
I remember my excitement when Father Tom first announced his plans to go to Rome for the 25th anniversary of his ordination to the priesthood. He had studied there for four years, and I knew he would organize an amazing pilgrimage.
At the initial meeting, my worries about traveling alone evaporated. I recognized many faces and knew a few people quite well. I realized that a journey with these faith-filled pilgrims would be especially rewarding. True friendships in Christ were forged along the way.
Our pilgrimage began in Assisi. God smiled on us, granting blue, cloudless skies. The beauty of the region brought home how much St. Francis cared for all God’s creation. Praying at the basilicas of St. Francis and St. Clare and walking where they lived and died were such moving experiences.
Although we didn’t want to leave Assisi, Rome beckoned. We looked forward to assisting at Masses celebrated by Father Tom inside the four great basilicas. St. Paul Outside the Walls did not disappoint. I was more than a little awestruck. People of immense faith envisioned this structure and built it to glorify God and to inspire future Christians like me.
Sunday brought us to St. Peter’s Basilica. The magnificence of St. Peter’s is a powerful, palpable thing. Here, 25 years previous, on Trinity Sunday, our pastor was ordained. When Father Tom joined us to celebrate Mass, he was radiant. We could feel his joy and were witness to his serenity. Mass was said in the Chapel of St. Sebastian at the tomb of St. John Paul II, who had ordained Father Tom. We all felt especially blessed. A year of hoping, planning, anticipating had come to fruition.
Our guided visits to St. Mary Major and St. John Lateran and the Masses celebrated there were incredible. The art, architecture and history of the basilicas were so very impressive. But there were surprises along the way. One was a visit to St. Alphonsus, which allowed us to see and pray before the original icon of Our Lady of Perpetual Help. It was unexpected and awesome.
Our audience with Pope Francis was a high point of our journey. His infectious smile and caring manner touch us all. The leader and model for every Catholic was blessing us. I understand what it means to be in the presence of goodness and greatness. It is both humbling and uplifting!
We spent our last day in the Abbey of Monte Cassino, high on a hill away from Rome. The pace changed, and I felt tranquility and peace in this place. St .Benedict and St. Scholastica, his sister, lie in rest there. I was privileged to proclaim the Word at our last Mass of the pilgrimage.
Two of my most personally fulfilling moments from the pilgrimage were singing “Suscipe” with Father Tom in a chapel in the Church of Jesu and praying, each day, the “Anima Christi” with my fellow pilgrims. These prayers from St. Ignatius of Loyola, as well as his prayer for generosity, are among my favorites. Now, when I pray them, they invoke wonderful memories. I pray more fervently and reverently for having lived out this dream of a pilgrimage. I am a blessed and fortunate pilgrim.
Retired French teacher
Sts. Peter & Paul Parish