All roads lead to Rome

December 3, 2012
Filed under Featured, Features

Legatus pilgrims discover the glories of Ireland and the Eternal City while on pilgrimage . . .

by Matthew A. Rarey

From the green fields of the Emerald Isle to the stone-gray boulevards of Rome, nearly 20 Legatus pilgrims toured holy sites in Ireland and the Eternal City from Oct. 10-21.

Ireland

Highlights of the trip’s first leg included following in the footsteps of St. Patrick and Blessed John Henry Newman — and attending the chartering of Legatus’ Dublin Chapter (see page 14).

Joe Melançon speaks with Pope Benedict XVI on Oct. 17

“The beauty of seeing the first chapter outside North America chartered was overwhelming,” said Joe Melançon, a member of Legatus’ Baton Rouge Chapter who attended the Oct. 11 event. “We all know about the difficulties the Church in Ireland is suffering through, but being at the chartering was an affirmation of the faith in Ireland.

“Ireland is a deeply spiritual place, and when you combine it with the chartering evening, it’s hard to top,” Melançon said.

Rome

After Ireland, the pilgrims journeyed to Rome where highlights included a walking tour of the ancient city; a tour of the catacombs; lunch with students at the North American College, where most U.S. seminarians live and take classes; and a private tour of the Sistine Chapel, followed by a tour of the Vatican Secret Archives.

One of the high points was an Oct. 17 general audience with Pope Benedict XVI. Legates had VIP seating near the front of St. Peter’s Square, packed with thousands of pilgrims and visitors. At the end of the general audience, Melançon presented the Holy Father with Legatus’ annual contribution to the Holy See. He said his moment with the Pope was an overpowering experience that he will never forget.

His wife Paula said she was thrilled with the meetings Legates had with Vatican officials. “We were given the opportunity to meet with two offices in the curia,” she said. “The Holy Father’s opening of the Year of Faith, in which we Catholics are called to live the faith more dynamically, was wonderfully significant for us.”

Two priests served as spiritual guides during the pilgrimage. In Ireland, Dublin Chapter chaplain Fr. Michael Mullan, LC, guided Legates. In Rome, a native Texan did the honors: Fr. John C. Vargas.

“The Legatus pilgrimage gives them an opportunity to see and visit places and shrines that even life-long residents of Rome don’t ever get to see — and also to meet and learn from major Vatican prelates,” said Fr. Vargas, procurator general of the Redemporist order in Rome.

“The most beautiful experience for me as their spiritual director was to witness members’ faith and their searching hearts for an ever more profound union with our most holy Redeemer.”

Bill Bowman (left) poses with Gordon & Ann Stevens
of the New Orleans Chapter atop Santa Croce
University with St. Peter’s Basilica in the background

On their last night in Rome, pilgrims enjoyed a reception atop the Pontifical University of the Holy Cross. Several of the Legates are longtime friends with two of the university’s priests — Fr. John Wauck and Fr. Robert Gahl — who gave a pre-reception lecture about religious liberty in those heady days before the U.S. presidential election.

Enjoying a bounteous buffet of wine and cheese, Legates mingled against a backdrop of Rome’s magnificent views, including St. Peter’s Basilica beneath a rose-tinged sky.

“I enjoyed myself so much that I changed my mind and have decided to attend the summit in Scottsdale next February,” said Dr. Vicky Loberg of the Peoria Chapter.

Matthew A. Rarey is Legatus magazine’s editorial assistant.

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