Monsignor Joseph Reilly, Rector/Dean of Immaculate Conception Seminary School of Theology (ICSST), recently led a group of seminarians to Rome for an eight-day pilgrimage, as one of the initiatives introduced through ICSST's new partnership with the Lay Centre at Foyer Unitas. Participants stayed in the Lay Centre's residence halls and dined as a community in the Lay Centre's refectory.
The pilgrimage was an opportunity for seminarians to gain spiritual enlightenment and experiential understanding of their beliefs while experiencing more than 2,000 years of Church history in Rome. Visits to venerated sites of the saints, including the Roman Houses beneath the Basilica of Sts. John and Paul (the martyred saints mentioned in the Eucharistic Prayer) and St. Peter in chains, provided an opportunity for instruction, deep reflection and prayer. The pilgrimage also included the celebration of Holy Mass in the Basilica of Sts. Peter and Paul, St. Peter's Basilica, Basilica of St. Mary Major and the Pantheon. On the final Sunday, the group gathered in St. Peter's Square to hear Pope Francis address the faithful and pray the Angelus.
Monsignor Reilly summarized his experience, "Despite the oppressive heat, what remains in my heart and mind about the days in Rome is the level of comfort we all felt – with the coming together of the two institutions (Seminary and the Lay Centre) and with the two respective communities sharing delicious food and wonderful conversation, as well as their experiences of faith. I am truly grateful for our time in Rome when the Spirit of unity was palpable among us all. It was a perfect beginning!"
Seminarians who were able to participate in the pilgrimage shared their experiences:
Third Theology, Frank Lennie, Paterson
"My experience in Rome has impacted my formation experience by allowing me to share many conversations with the students at the Lay Centre—conversations with people of different faiths but the same love for Jesus Christ. This has helped me to be formed into a man of prayer with a spirit of unity."
Third Theology, Christian Scalo, Newark
"[My time in Rome was] a beautiful way to encounter Christ, not only amid the place considered to be the center of our faith but most significantly in and through my brothers and faculty that journeyed on this pilgrimage with me."
Fourth Theology, Rev. Mr. Kamil Belling, Newark
"The experience in Rome gave me a good feeling of the Church and the importance of history as an element of the clear and pure identity of our apostolic roots. Those roots were visible through the stories and deep Christian symbolism seen through the architecture of Roman churches and explanations that we heard during our pilgrimage. The most touching element for me was the opportunity to serve as a deacon at the Mass of the memorial of St. Brigid at St. Peter's Basilica. It also was powerful to see that Masses were celebrated in many different languages throughout the Basilica, all in unity. As I prepare for the priesthood, the pilgrimage to Rome allowed me to experience in a personal way the vast beauty and expansiveness of my Catholic faith, a faith that I desire to share with others as a parish priest."
Fourth Theology, Rev. Mr. John March, Camden
"Of many blessed experiences I had in Rome, the most moving was seeing the tomb of St. Cecilia in the catacombs. She died a martyr in the second century. Her statue shows the position her body was in when her grave was later opened. Her right hand is holding out three fingers and her left hand is holding out one - a final sign of her faith in the Holy Trinity, one God in three Persons. It was a sobering and motivating sign to me of the faith we are all called to have."
The opportunity to provide such a pilgrimage is only possible through the generous benefactors who appreciate how the experience will enhance priestly formation. The seminarians are grateful for your prayers and financial support.
Categories: Faith and Service