Recently, two members and their spouses of the Father Gerald Mackenzie Council 8608 of the Knights of Columbus, Stella Maris Parish, Pictou went on a Pilgrimage to Rome Italy and Assisi. The event was sponsored by the Supreme Office of the Knights of Columbus in New Haven, Connecticut. The Council won the magnificent opportunity for their outreach programs that they did last Spring.
Wayne and Dolores MacGillivary and Fred and Sinda Dobson had a trip of a lifetime. When they arrived in Rome they were met by Tour Guide Luana Riatsch who accompanied the group through the week. The group was made up of six other couples from the United States and two officers from the Supreme Office in New Haven.
The Knights and their spouses were treated royally on this trip. The excursion included tours of a number of ancient Basilicas and churches. Included were Santa Maria Maggiore ,the largest Catholic Marian Church in Rome and Chiesa del Gesu which is the Mother Church of the Jesuit order.
Following those two tours was the regular Wednesday Papal audience. The Knights and their wives were fortunate to be seated just to the right of the Pope Frances on the main outdoor elevated platform. Fifty thousand people from all over the world populated St Peter's Square. The holiness of the Church was the theme chosen by Pope Francis for his catechesis during the general audience.
Mass was celebrated daily for the group and one mass was celebrated in one of the chapels of St Peter's Basilica.
The Knights also had the good fortune to have a guided tour of St. Peter‚Äôs conducted by Professor Pietro Zander, head architect for the vatican. He also presented each group with a copy of his book entitled ‚ÄúThe Necropolis under St. Peter's Basilica in the Vatican‚ÄĚ During this same tour the Knights and their spouses visited Scavi five to 12 metres under the Vatican where it is believed the bones of the Apostle Saint Peter are entombed.
The group also celebrated mass in the Basilica di Santa Maria in Trastevere. This church is one of the oldest in Rome and it is said that it was here that the first mass was openly celebrated.
On the last day of their Pilgrimage ,the group left to travel from Rome to Assisi at 3:30 in the morning. Assisi is the birthplace of Saint Francis,who founded the Franciscans religious order in 1208.Pope Francis celebrated mass in Assisi in front of thousands of people.
During this mass Pope Francis stated that: ‚ÄúSociety, unfortunately, is contaminated by a throwaway culture, which is the opposite of the culture of welcome. And the victims of throwaway culture are precisely the weakest, the most fragile. In this House, I see instead the culture of welcome in action. ‚Ä¶ Thank you for this sign of love that you offer: this is a sign of true civilisation, human and Christian! Placing the most disadvantaged people at the centre of social and political attention! At times, instead, families find they have to take on the responsibility of caring for them alone. What can we do? Here, where we see real love, I say to all: let us multiply the action of this culture of welcome, of works inspired above all by deep Christian love, love for Christ Crucified, for the flesh of Christ, works which unite professionalism, qualified and justly remunerated work with that of volunteers, a most valuable treasure‚ÄĚ.
‚ÄúTo serve those most in need of assistance enables us to grow in humanity, because these are true resources of humanity. St. Francis was a young rich man, with ideals of glory, but Jesus, in the person of the leper, spoke to him in silence and changed him, making him understand what was truly of value in life: not wealth, the strength of arms, earthly glory, but humility, mercy, forgiveness‚ÄĚ.
Throughout the week the group also had a chance to visit Columbus Square in Rome named in honor of the Knights of Columus.They toured as well the ruins of the Roman Colosseum, and a famous land mark the Trevi Fountain.They also had the opportunity to experience Italian cuisine and hospitality.
It truly was an experience of a lifetime for all who were blessed to be included in this pilgrimage and it certainly made its mark on everyone spiritually.