Tag Archives: pilgrimage

God rewards faithfulness, Mary helps us keep it

In southern Poland, as World War II was beginning in early September 1939, a man named Franciszek brought his wife and two little daughters to the town of Kalwaria Zebrzydowska near Krakow where the Franciscans ran a Marian shrine. While there, he disappeared briefly behind the shrine walls. Only after the war in 1945 did he reveal what he did at the shrine: he had begged the Blessed Virgin Mary for protection during the war, promising in return to bring a group of parishioners there for the Solemnity of the Assumption each year. He kept this promise, and even after Franciszek’s death in 1992 his family and co-parishioners maintain that pledge every August.

His oldest daughter, Weronika, learned from her father’s example. When the youngest of her three children was almost 12, Weronika, then nearly 39, learned she was pregnant again. Her “best” friends urged her to abort, which she thought about – “You don’t need another problem,” they said – but she wanted the baby. She went to her parish priest for counsel, and decided to keep the child. After nine months, on May 28, 1975, Weronika delivered a beautiful boy named Rafal. Weronika and her husband, Edward, would later have a fifth child, a daughter named Monica.

During the pregnancy with Rafal, Weronika did like her father Franciszek: she asked Our Lady for help and protection. In return, she offered the child to the service of the Blessed Virgin Mary and her son Jesus. Rafal, the same Father Rafal who writes these words, is now 45.

To not have been aborted is a wonderful gift from my mom in cooperation with God. Every gift is a sign of love and proof that someone thinks about us. It is the same in my life.

I have lived my life in a close relationship with God and His mother Mary. Growing up, the parish church was my second home. In Poland, August, like May, is dedicated to the Blessed Virgin Mary. During that month you see many groups of people walking to the Shrine of Black Madonna in Czestochowa, the fourth-largest Marian shrine in the world. It is a “Walking Pilgrimage,” and it takes some people 21 days. It is a very old way of penance and devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary. Pilgrims carry on their shoulders not only backpacks with food and water, but also many prayer intentions.

Walking Pilgrimage was part of my annual summer vacation. In 1996, after reaching the shrine, my group of 5,000 pilgrims from the Diocese of Bielsko-Zywiec celebrated the Eucharist. We then watched as pilgrims from Krakow arrived. A thought came to my mind, like an offer to God and to Mary: “It would be so nice to serve all those pilgrims here at the shrine.” Two years later, I entered religious life in the Order of Saint Paul the First Hermit.

Back to the gifts. The second most precious and important gift I have ever received was the one I received on May 28, 2005, my 30th birthday, from God Himself. At the Shrine of the Black Madonna, the same place I had offered myself to God to serve the pilgrims, I and eight other young men gathered around the altar of Our Lady and were ordained to the priesthood.

This reflection is not about gifts we receive from people, but about God, who is faithful. Saint Paul says, “But the Lord is faithful; he will strengthen you and guard you from the evil one” (2 Thess. 3:3). This is exactly what happens to my family: God guards us “from the evil one.” Therefore, I want to sing with Mary, “My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord; my spirit rejoices in God my savior” (Luke 1:46-47).

FATHER RAFAL WALCZYK, O.S.P.P.E. was ordained a priest in 2005 and is a member of the Order of Saint Paul the First Hermit. A native of Poland, he currently serves at The National Shrine of Our Lady of Czestochowa in Doylestown, PA.

Business travel: pilgrimage or occasion of sin?

“Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil” (Eph 6:11)

The ordinary experience of a Catholic business traveler provides opportunities for both spiritual growth and evangelization. It also can be a time where we might be tempted to sin and compromise our commitment to virtue. As someone who travels constantly for business, I thought I would pass on some of my habits formed to make these trips into mini-pilgrimages.

Begin the trip well

  • Pray the rosary while waiting to board the flight.
  • Make the sign of the cross and pray the rosary again upon takeoff.
  • Make the sign of the cross and offer a blessing before eating any in-flight food.
  • Make another sign of the cross upon landing.

While these slightly conspicuous Catholic practices might attract looks, they also frequently create an opening for dialogue with other faithful or those searching for spiritual comfort.

Take a stand at check-in

  • Request in advance that there be no alcohol in the minibar. Stop patronizing hotels that demand an exorbitant fee for alcohol removal.
  • Insist that “adult” cable channels be disabled or that the cable be completely disconnected.
  • Ask for the location of the nearest Catholic church and its weekday Mass schedule.

Alcohol and pornography can be sources of temptation. They also are at the foundation of much human sex trafficking, and business travelers form a prominent client base. Be part of the countermovement by taking a stand.

Sanctify the room

  • Travel with a vial of holy water and bless the hotel room immediately.
  • Place a small crucifix and blessed saints’ medals on the desk and next to the bed.
  • Carry spiritually nourishing material, such as the Legatus Timeless Prayers for Busy People.
  • Free hotel wifi is overwhelmingly used for pornography, and Catholics are not immune from this temptation. My work computer prevents me from using hotel networks. Sticking to business electronic devices is a good strategy. If using personal devices, software such as Covenant Eyes can offer protection.

As there are no eyes on you in your hotel room, invite God’s eyes and spiritual protection into that space.

Begin pilgrimage upon waking

  • If possible, get up early, pray, and exercise.
  • Visit that Catholic church identified at check-in — if not for Mass or Confession, then at least to offer an oration.
  • Be on high alert about business entertaining. I frequently make excuses to drink nothing at all or have at most one or two glasses of wine.
  • Speak openly about your Catholic faith and other wholesome subjects such as family and books. Never join in any vulgarity.
  • Get back to the hotel early and call home. These are trusted best practices, but we must be equally committed to keeping our business guests and colleagues spiritually safe too.

Return home with spiritual impact

  • Drop a note to the hotel management requesting pornography blockers on the hotel wifi. (Let’s start a movement!)
  • Thank hotel management for any signage in the hotel alerting guests to signs of human trafficking.
  • Drive like a Christian.
  • Use the constant irritations and stresses of travel to imitate Christ. Forgiveness is the antidote to stress.
  • Consume no alcohol on the flight home. Look forward to a glass of wine with your spouse instead. The armor of God is effective. Use it and stay safe!

JONATHAN TERRELL is the president of the Washington, D.C., Chapter. He is founder and president of KCIC, a Washington-based consulting firm that helps companies manage their product liabilities.

Miraculous image of Our Lady to be crowned

Recently, I was blessed to go on a pilgrimage in the footsteps of Saint Paul the Apostle, during which we visited Ephesus, a place where according to tradition, Mary lived her last years on this earth. But it is also the place where the Council of Ephesus took place in 431. During that Council, the bishops announced that Mary could also be called Mother of God.

The title “Mother of God” is one of the first titles given to Our Lady. We call her Mother of God not because God came from her, but because she gave birth to Jesus who is both God and man. The title Mother of God reminds us that Jesus is both divine and human.

On the same pilgrimage we visited certain mythological Greek gods’ places where we learned that Greek gods supposedly acted in a human way – often being jealous or angry, and the most striking to me… they did not take care of people. Conversely, Mary, Mother of God, who is totally human and at the same time the mother of our Savior from the beginning, is very much interested in the life of her children, us. We read in the Gospel that Christ did his first miracle at Cana, transforming water into wine after the intervention of His mother Mary. For this miracle to commence, Jesus‘ mother said to servants: “do whatever my Son will tell you.”

The Order of Saint Paul the First Hermit, of which I am a part, for over 600 years has served like servants in Cana — in Czestochowa, Poland. In this ‘Polish Cana,’ the Pauline Fathers have witnessed many life-changing miracles upon Mary’s intercession. Pilgrims who come to that shrine have received graces through her intercession, and thus have chosen her as their Mother and Queen. As a sign of that, the Icon of Our Lady of Czestochowa was crowned in Poland in 1717.

Pauline Fathers serve also in the ‘American Czestochowa’ (National Shrine of Our Lady of Czestochowa, Doylestown, PA) where her icon was brought in the early 1950s. This newer church was built mostly by PolishAmericans, and consecrated in 1966 in America, signifying a millennium of Christianity in Poland.

Pope Saint John Paul II acknowledged this in his talk at the Shrine in Poland in 1979. He also blessed and signed the image of Our Lady of Czestochowa, which is kept in the lower chapel of The National Shrine of Our Lady of Czestochowa in Doylestown. Pilgrims of many nationalities come to the American shrine for everyday Mass, Confession, adoration of the Blessed Sacrament, but most of all to ask for Mary’s unfailing intercession. Among those who have made pilgrimage here were then-Cardinal Wojtyla (now Pope Saint John Paul II); U.S. presidents Lyndon Johnson, and Ronald Reagan; president of Poland Andrzej Duda, and many more.

As a thanksgiving to Our Lady for her presence and motherly care here in America, we will crown her icon at the American Czestochowa on August 25. The main celebrant of that ceremony will be Archbishop of Philadelphia Charles Chaput. We invite all to visit our magnificent Shrine and especially to celebrate the moment of crowning of the image of Our Lady of Czestochowa.

In connection with the coronation of the icon of Our Lady of Czestochowa in August, the shrine in Doylestown was recently granted a plenary indulgence by His Holiness Pope Francis, for all the faithful who visit the Shrine this year, from May through October. We encourage all to take advantage of this extraordinary grace, spiritual experience, and benefit from the coronation of the Miraculous Image of our Mother and Queen.

TADEUSZ LIZINCZYK OSPPE, provincial at The National Shrine of Our Lady of Czestochowa (Doylestown, PA).

Steve Ray – 2019 Summit speaker


Steve Ray sat on a hotel balcony, watching a group of pilgrims swimming and relaxing in the Sea of Galilee.

“Every time we come, there are always new things to discover and new things to learn,” Ray, 60, a well-known Catholic apologist, speaker, author, and filmmaker, said during a break from a pilgrimage in early October that he led to the Holy Land.

Ray, who was a Baptist before he and his entire family converted to the Catholic faith 24 years ago, will be speaking at the Legatus Summit in January, and will also lead Legatus’ Holy Land pilgrimage in 2019.

Known as “Jerusalem Jones,” Ray and Janet, his wife of 41 years, have been to the Holy Land more than 160 times. They also travel throughout the world, speaking at conferences. While in Galilee, Ray spoke with Legatus magazine.

What will you be speaking about at next month’s Summit?

The talk is going to be related to the upcoming pilgrimage, the working title being, “The Beauty and Truth of the Fifth Gospel.” When Pope St. Paul VI went to the Holy Land, he said, “This land is the fifth Gospel.” When you come here, it makes the other four pop into technicolor widescreen.

What is on the itinerary for the 2019 pilgrimage?

We’ll spend three nights in Galilee. We got a nice hotel right on the shore of Galilee so they’ll have access to the water. The first day we’ll go have Mass at the Mount of Transfiguration. We’ll renew our marriage vows in Cana, then we’ll have lunch in Nazareth. Then we’ll go to the Church of the Annunciation, where Mary was visited by the angel and given the good news, and where God became man. We pray the First Joyous Mystery in front of the cave at the altar where the angel spoke to Mary.

The next day, we have Mass at the Mount of Beatitudes. We go up to the Golan Heights and have lunch up there. We actually look out over the country of Syria and Lebanon and talk about the political situation going on here in the Middle East. Then we come back down and look at some more sites along the Sea of Galilee. The next day we have Mass at the place where Jesus said to “eat my flesh and drink my blood” in Capernaum.

How spiritually enriching can a pilgrimage to the Holy Land be?

There is no other place you can travel to where God actually walked with His own feet. I tell people, “You come here, you want to touch the land. But be careful, because the land is going to reach out and touch you.” This is sacred ground, this is where God himself walked, this is where the Mother of God walked. You can’t come here with an open heart and not be touched by it and changed forever.

You’ve been to the Holy Land more than 100 times. Does it ever get old?

Never. I always tell the pilgrims that I see it again for the first time through their eyes. It’s always exciting to see newcomers, people who have never been here before, and to see the tears well up in their eyes and the excitement when they realize this is where Mary and Jesus stood.

What projects are you working on now?

I have a new book coming out with Ignatius Press called The Papacy: What the Pope Does and Why It Matters. Also, we have nine of the Footprints of God movies done. I have one more to do. In 2020, we’re going to do Doctors of the Church. I’m also in the middle of another book with Ignatius Press on the Book of Genesis and we have pilgrimages already planned for the next five years, not only to the Holy Land but also to places likes Lourdes, Fatima, Guadalupe, Mexico, Poland, and Ireland.

Pro-family message of Our Lady of Guadalupe

Last month, Legatus members and their families traveled to Mexico City for our annual Guadalupe pilgrimage. I have been to Mexico City on this pilgrimage three times now, and each pilgrimage leaves something with me. The Shrine of our Lady of Guadalupe, which is the home of the tilma of Juan Diego, is a very unique pilgrimage site. It is the most visited Marian pilgrimage locale in the world and as is sometimes pointed out, the only place we can still see the physical evidence of an apparition of our Blessed Mother.

Stephen Henley

One of the most unique aspects of the image of Our Lady of Guadalupe is the ribbon at her waist. In ancient times, this attire for an Aztec woman would signify that she was pregnant. This would mean that this, then, is the only apparition where Mary appears pregnant with Jesus. During the pilgrimage, I spent time reflecting on this aspect of Mary as the mother of God, and on Our Lady of Guadalupe as the patroness of the unborn.

I tie this image of Mary with child to that of the Holy Family. Among other characteristics, being pro-life means being pro-family. When visiting the Shrine, aside from seeing thousands of pilgrims, there are many Mexican families traveling together to make this pilgrimage. Not only parents with their kids, but several generations, great-grandparents, grandparents, extended family. There are fewer images in our world that can speak more to real pro-life belief, than that of a family praying together.

Children, regardless of circumstance, are a real, tangible gift of God’s powerful love. Mother Teresa once said, “we must remember that life begins at home and we must also remember that the future of humanity passes through the family.” The family is the first Church, and an example for the world of God’s presence and love. In the historical moment of tolerance in which we find ourselves, it was a relief and a reassurance to see so many families come together united in Christ.

Our Lady of Guadalupe sends us a powerful message, an example of love and sacrifice for family to nations and cultures that have great need of her. Let us take this time to focus on family as a symbol of God’s love in our world.

STEPHEN HENLEY is Legatus’ executive director.

Taking a step back in time, to touch eternity


Steve and Elizabeth Crawford, members of Legatus’ San Antonio Chapter, frequently look at each other and reminisce about the Legatus pilgrimage to Italy that they took last October with Legates from across the country.

Steve and Elizabeth Crawford

The pilgrimage was a memorable and life-changing experience for Steve, who has a career in real estate, and Elizabeth, the CEO of Senero Wealth Management in San Antonio. The Crawfords, who have been married for 19 years and have four children, discussed their private tours in the Sistine Chapel and their meeting with a saint’s daughter in an interview with Legatus magazine.

Where did you go on last year’s Italy pilgrimage?

Steve: We started in Milan. We took a day trip to Lake Como with the group. We also met with St. Gianna Molla’s daughter in another day trip and spent the whole day with her. Then after Milan, we went to Rome for the last five days of the trip.

What was it like spending a day with St. Gianna’s daughter?

Elizabeth: You think of saints as people who lived hundreds of years in the past, and here you were looking at the relics of a saint who was born in the last century and who has a daughter there present. I think one of the neat things to hear her talk was how she referred to St. Gianna as ‘Mama.’

Steve: We went to her mother’s grave, and while we were all there, this man came up, dressed as nicely as he could be in a suit, and he asked if St. Gianna’s daughter was there. Once he got her attention, he dropped to his knees and asked her to intercede on his behalf to her mother for some family members who were having trouble conceiving. Seeing her hold his hands and give a blessing was just an amazing experience.

Had you done the pilgrimage before?

Steve: Not the Legatus trip. Elizabeth’s parents are Legates and they went on the trip in 2005. So we’ve been hearing about the pilgrimage for a long time. During their trip they had an audience with John Paul II in his personal library. There are photos in their home of them holding and kissing the hands of John Paul II. We got the opportunity this past fall to do it, and we decided it was a trip that we needed to take, to experience it for ourselves. And it was undoubtedly one of the best trips that either of us has ever taken.

What were some of other highlights of the pilgrimage?

Steve: We’d never been to Lake Como, and it was beautiful. Everything in Rome, with the access we got in the Vatican, was Catholic-centric. We got to go to the North American College, which didn’t seem like it was going to be a highlight. But for me, I really enjoyed getting to have lunch with the diocesan seminarians who were there from not only North America but from all around the world.

Would you do this pilgrimage again?

Steve: Absolutely. Not a day goes by where I don’t think about it. Frequently we will look at each other and say how and when are we going to do this again. It’s difficult with a growing family and with small children, but it is very high on our bucket list to do the Legatus trip again.

What would you tell a Legate who is thinking about the pilgrimage?

Elizabeth: We look at each other and say all the time, “Italy.” It just created a bond between us and a bond with our faith. You’re just exposed to things you would never have access to. I got to do the readings at the St. John Paul II chapel in St. Peter’s Basilica when it was closed to the public. You’re investing in memories when you take the trip.

Autumn faith journeys

Last fall’s two pilgrimages, to Mexico in September and Italy in October, took Legates on intimate faith-intensifying tours of Marian apparition sites, miraculous images, renowned cathedrals, saints’ hometowns and modern-day families, Vatican treasures, and a private audience with Pope Francis.

Legatus’ spiritual expeditions are an unparalleled immersion for enhancing appreciation for the greatest ambassadors for Christ, and the extraordinary “meetings” of heaven and earth throughout salvation history.

The September 22-25 Mexico pilgrimage featured visits to the world-famous Shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe – the most visited shrine in Christendom – and the correlating site of the Virgin Mary’s 16th-century apparitions to St. Juan Diego in Guadalupe (whose tilma displaying her miraculous image is prominently displayed in the Shrine). Also included was a tour of Mexico City, and visit to the Sisters of Mary’s Girlstown for underprivileged girls.

Legatus executive director Stephen Henley was overcome by the experience.

“The pilgrimage to Mexico City is one like I have never had. At the beginning of the trip, we saw the tilma of Juan Diego, the world’s only apparition-result we can still see. We see the faith and love of the people of Mexico. Then we see the fruits of the apparition when we visit Girlstown (Chalco, MX) where we see the joy and love of the Virgin Mary exuded by 3,500 girls. It is breathtaking and such an emotionally uplifting experience.”

Sharon and Steve Booma of the Jacksonville Chapter were captivated and penned this note of thanks to Tom Sullivan, one of the pilgrimage’s group leaders.

“We’ve been thinking about our Mexico trip and thank you for encouraging us to go. The expression of faith that we felt at the cathedral, the basilica — everywhere — was at times overwhelming. The purity and innocence we saw on the girls’ faces at Mass in Girlstown was so sincere — it was obvious that they love God. What a gift to be there! Our Lord and Our Blessed Mother were/are indeed present.”

Monsignor Robert J. Panke, rector of St. John Paul II Seminary in Washington, D.C. and among the pilgrimage’s accompanying priests, said, “It was such a wonderful and grace-filled experience to celebrate Mass at Girlstown and see the extraordinary work begun by Father Al [Girlstown founder, the late Venerable Fr. Aloysius Schwartz] and continued by the sisters. It had a profound effect on me and the others.”

A late-October, 10-day sacred-art-and sites pilgrimage to Italy, during the most enjoyable season to visit, was divided between the country’s spectacular northern areas beginning in Milan, and finalizing in Rome. Premier hotels – such as Milan’s Excelsior Hotel Gallia, and Rome’s Westin Excelsior – offered unparalleled respite and meals for Legates in each locale, as did renowned restaurants and exclusive al fresco dining. The group also enjoyed carefree, authentic shopping intervals.

Launching with a visit to Leonardo DaVinci’s “Last Supper” painting at the Santa Maria della Grazie convent in Milan, the Legatus tour group also ventured to the nearby Basilica of St. Ambrose and Milan Cathedral (dedicated to St. Mary of the Nativity). St. Ambrose’s relics were exposed for veneration and his basilica – one of Milan’s most ancient churches – was consecrated by Ambrose himself in the late 4th century. Noted art-historian Liz Lev primed the group beforehand with a presentation on the Last Supper as part of an overview of DaVinci’s art and its meaning. A trip to Magenta and Mesero, where St. Gianna Beretta Molla was born and raised, featured a personalized tour by her daughter, Gianna Emanuela (also a physician, like her mother). Included were churches and schools that St. Gianna attended regularly, as well as the house where she was born, and the one where she lived while married to her husband, Pietro.

A private cruise and wine-tasting lunch on Lake Como, nestled along the foothills of the Alps, featured a visit to the town of Bellagio with its formal lakeside villas and landscapes, narrow shop-lined cobblestone streets, Mass at St. James Church in Como, and a visit to the Cathedral of Como.

The group headed south for its final five days in Rome, which featured visits to St. Peter’s Basilica with guided tours by Liz Lev; private tours of Vatican Museums and Sistine Chapel, and of ancient Christian Rome; the papal gardens; a special Italian cooking class; and a driving excursion to Castel Gondolfo at Lake Albano – the summer lakeside residence of the pope. The finale of the trip was a private meeting with Pope Francis.

And the Legate-pilgrims’ endorsements for the trip say even more.

Steve and Liz Crawford, San Antonio Chapter, said, “There were so many special moments, it is hard to name one. We saw fantastic behind the scenes things and had amazing guides give context to it …it made all the difference in the world. We highly recommend everyone do this at least once!”

“This was a first-class experience,” said Bill and Nancy Stemper of the Philadelphia Chapter. “We had outstanding care, and such a passionate and knowledgeable chaplain in Fr. Joe Fox to enrich our learning. Experiencing Catholic-Italian sites with a small group of like-minded Catholics … made this a pilgrimage, not a sightseeing tour. And we never could have imagined experiencing Pope Francis ‘up close and personal.’”

CHRISTINE VALENTINE-OWSIK is Legatus magazine’s managing editor.

Are you a pilgrim or a tourist?

My friend Fr. Bob Sherry and I have been hosting pilgrimages for a long time. Our current schedule includes three trips each year: the Holy Land; Lourdes and Paris (France); and Rome, Assisi, and Florence (Italy). On the opening night, we always ask our pilgrims the same question: Are you going to be a pilgrim or a tourist?

kellyTourists want everything to go exactly as they have planned and imagined it. ƒThey rush around making sure they cram everything in. Thƒey’re constantly buying souvenirs and knickknacks, many of which they will look at when they get home and wonder, “What was I thinking?” ƒThey focus on themselves, often shoving past others to get where they’re going. Tourists go sightseeing. Tourists count the cost.

Pilgrims are very different. ƒThey look for signs. If a flight gets delayed or canceled, they ask, “What is God trying to say to me?” Pilgrims aren’t concerned with seeing and doing everything, just the things they feel called to see and do. ƒThey’re not obsessed with shopping. ƒThey are aware of others’ needs. Pilgrims look for meaning. Pilgrims count their blessings.

ƒThe reality is we are all pilgrims. ƒThis planet we call earth is not our home; we are just passing through. We build homes and establish ourselves on earth in ways that ignore that we are really just here for short time. It’s a dangerous pastime to live as if you’re never going to die, but consciously or subconsciously we all fall into this trap to one degree or another.

In this life, we’re just passing through. ƒThe happiness that God created us for is different from the fleeting happiness and momentary pleasures of this world. God created us for lasting happiness in a changing world — and eternal happiness with him in heaven. Thƒe happiness he wants for us in this life is a rare kind of happiness that isn’t dependent on situations or circumstances. It’s easy to be happy when everything is going well, but Christian joy allows us to be happy like Paul was when he was in prison.

Do you ever think about heaven? It seems to me we don’t talk about it anywhere near as much as we should. When Rudyard Kipling was very seriously ill, a nurse asked him, “Is there anything you want?” He replied, “I want God!” We all do. We may not be aware of it, but we want Him. Behind every desire for a new car or a new house, a promotion or accomplishment, clothes and jewelry, plastic surgery, adventure and travel, food and sex, acceptance and comfort, is our desire for God. We are always hungry for something more complete, and God is the completeness that we yearn for from the depths of our soul.

We are just passing through, and it’s helpful to remind ourselves of that from time to time. In the context of eternity, we’re only here for the blink of an eye. Realizing this changes our priorities. At the same time, we’re here for a reason. You are here for a reason. God has a mission for you.

Life is a pilgrimage, a sacred journey. Typically, a pilgrimage takes us to a shrine or other location important to a person’s faith or beliefs. You can make a pilgrimage to the Holy Land, Rome, Fatima, Lourdes, the Camino, or any of the famous Catholic sites around the world. But you could also make a pilgrimage to your nearest cathedral. In fact, every Sunday you make a pilgrimage to your local parish to Mass.

Very often people make pilgrimages with special intentions in mind. Some ask God for a favor, perhaps to heal a loved one who is sick. Others make a pilgrimage in thanksgiving for a blessing they’ve already received from God. Thƒere are always couples on our trips who are celebrating a wedding anniversary. On every trip, Fr. Bob chooses one of the holy places and invites every couple to renew their marriage vows. Powerful!

Life is a pilgrimage, but sometimes you need a pilgrimage to discover life. We’re journeying in this life toward the sacred city, toward the heart of God — heaven. Nobody makes the journey alone. We all need companions. I’ve met some of my very best friends in this world on pilgrimages. ƒThese friends encourage us and challenge us to become the “best version of ourselves.” By doing so, they help us to get to heaven.

Let’s pray for the grace to be pilgrims and not just tourists. Let’s pray for the grace to be the kind of friend who helps others in the great pilgrimage of life. We’re just passing through this place we call earth. At every turn we’re tempted to be tourists, so spend some time today thinking about heaven.

MATTHEW KELLY is the founder of Dynamic Catholic and the bestselling author of more than 20 books, published in 25 languages. His latest is Resisting Happiness.

Legates Trek to México

Even though it’s been nearly 500 years since Our Lady appeared to St. Juan Diego on Tepeyac Hill, her appeal — and her message — have not diminished with time. For that matter, neither has the miraculous image she left on Juan Diego’s cloak in December of 1531.

Tom and Glory Sullivan of Legatus’ Jacksonville Chapter pose with students from Girlstown

Tom and Glory Sullivan of Legatus’ Jacksonville Chapter pose with students from Girlstown

For the 56 pilgrims on the fourth annual Legatus-Papal Foundation pilgrimage to México, the two-day experience also left an indelible mark on their hearts and souls.

“I’m seeing the same image that they saw nearly 500 years ago, and that can’t be said for any other apparition,” Troy King, a member of Legatus’ Orlando Chapter who made the pilgrimage with his wife Christy and three of their children, said of the Oct. 21-24 pilgrimage.


The pilgrimage was the brainchild of Tom and Glory Sullivan, members of Legatus’ Jacksonville Chapter. The couple has been traveling to México for decades to visit the Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe and a remarkable girls’ school called Villa de los Niñas. Legatus teamed up with The Papal Foundation to launch the pilgrimage in 2013.

Legates’ first stop was the México City’s Metropolitan Cathedral, one of the oldest and largest Catholic cathedrals in the Americas. The cathedral was built in sections from 1573 to 1813, and consecrated in 1656.

Next on the itinerary was an entire afternoon at the Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe. After viewing Juan Diego’s tilma, which bears the miraculous image of Our Lady, pilgrims climbed Tepeyac Hill where a chapel marks the first of four Marian apparitions. The group attended a special Mass on the hill celebrated by Fr. Edward Filardi; Fr. Bill Byrne, chaplain of Legatus’ DC Chapter, concelebrated. Also joining the pilgrims were Legatus’ executive director Stephen Henley and his wife Krista; Legatus’ pilgrimage director Laura Sacha; Fr. Stephen Parkes, chaplain of Legatus’ Orlando Chapter; and Jim Coffey, vice president of advancement for The Papal Foundation.


Legatus pilgrims pose for a group photo at Girlstown on Oct. 23

Legatus pilgrims pose for a group photo at Girlstown on Oct. 23

On the final day, pilgrims journeyed to Chalco, east of México City, to visit Villa de los Niñas. The Sisters of Mary operate 15 boarding schools in eight countries around the world, all known as “Boystown” and “Girlstown” in English.

The schools award scholarships to students from the poorest areas of the country, based on academic performance and need. The schools’ U.S.-born founder, Monsignor Aloysius “Al” Schwartz, has been declared venerable.

Pilgrims joined the school’s 3,000 students for Sunday Mass before enjoying lunch with the sisters. The rest of the day was spent touring the campus and interacting with students.

“We’re motivated by the fact that Fr. Schwartz is a saint,” explained Glory Sullivan, who has been a Girlstown and Boystown supporter with her husband Tom for nearly 25 years. “We truly believe that the graduates of the Sisters of Mary — all 130,000 of them — are the fruits of the tilma. They are changing the world.”

Pilgrims watch Girlstown’s 3,000 students sing for them on Oct. 23

Pilgrims watch Girlstown’s 3,000 students sing for them on Oct. 23

Jim Longon, a Philadelphia Legate, was astounded by his experience. “These girls are learning how to go back and help their families and their communities. The nuns here are making leaders. Without a doubt, we’re coming back again. My wife Anne and I are already thinking, ‘Who do we bring back with us next time?’ This far exceeded our expectations.”

Additionally, a dozen pilgrims attended a pre-trip to an orphanage in Cuernavaca, México, called Nuestros Pequeños Hermanos (NPH), Spanish for “Our little brothers and sisters.” Pilgrims spent a day at the orphanage, 60 miles south of México City. NPH cares for more than 3,400 orphans — most of them desperately poor — in nine countries in Central and South America. None of NPH’s children are adopted out. They’re raised and educated onsite before being sent to college or university if they have the desire and aptitude.

PATRICK NOVECOSKY is Legatus magazine’s editor-in-chief.

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Moved in Mexico

Legatus pilgrims visit the Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe and Girlstown

For the third consecutive year, Legatus members participated in a joint pilgrimage organized by Legatus and The Papal Foundation.

The 44 pilgrims traveled to Mexico City from Nov. 6-9 where they visited the Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe and saw St. Juan Diego’s tilma with the miraculous image of the Blessed Mother from 1531.

The day after visiting the basilica and the sites associated with Juan Diego and the apparition of Our Lady, pilgrims visited a remarkable girls’ school called Villa de los Niñas, also known as Girlstown.

“It’s very humbling,” Legatus conference director Laura Sacha said of the visit to Girlstown, located east of Mexico City in Chalco. “You almost don’t feel worthy to be there because they have such an appreciation for everything.”

Tepeyac Hill


Mike and Esther Belz, members of Legatus’ San Antonio Chapter, pose with students from Girlstown

The annual pilgrimage to Mexico has been a notable success since Tom and Glory Sullivan, members of The Papal Foundation and Legatus’ Jacksonville Chapter, helped organize the first joint outing in 2013.

The Sullivans have been traveling to Mexico for decades to visit the basilica and Girlstown, which is run by the Sisters of Mary. The order runs boarding schools for girls and boys in 15 locations around the world. Mexico’s Boystown school is in Guadalajara.

The three-day pilgrimage began on a Friday as Legates arrived in Mexico City. That evening, pilgrims enjoyed dinner together as a speaker prepared them for what they would see and experience during the next day’s trip to the basilica.

For Larry and Mary Anne Eagan of Legatus’ Western Massachusetts Chapter, the pilgrimage was their first visit to the Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe. It was a particularly moving experience for Mary Anne, who has a strong devotion to the Blessed Mother.

“It was a great trip, very spiritual, very uplifting,” said Larry Eagan, who purchased tickets for the pilgrimage as a Christmas gift to his wife. He said Sacha had told him about the pilgrimage during a Legatus-sponsored trip to the Holy Land the previous year.

Karl and Angelique Barreto, members of the Oklahoma City Chapter, also made their first visit to the basilica in November. They brought along their two sons, ages 12 and 21.

“We did not know many details at all before we left,” Angelique Barreto said. “Many of our friends and people in our parish had said many good things about it. They said the spiritual experience was very rewarding. That’s why we decided to go.”

On Saturday, Barreto said, the group attended a private Mass held in one of the basilica’s chapels. Pilgrims also visited the site of the apparitions of Our Lady on Tepeyac Hill, the location where Juan Diego lived and wore the tilma that still bears the miraculous image.

“Seeing the tilma was phenomenal,” Barreto said.


Steve and Debbie Peroutka of Legatus’ Baltimore Chapter with a student at Girlstown

Steve and Debbie Peroutka of Legatus’ Baltimore Chapter with a student at Girlstown

On Saturday night, Tom and Glory Sullivan told the pilgrims what to expect the next day while visiting Girlstown. Egan said Glory Sullivan winked at him and said, “The best is yet to come.”

“I was really intrigued by that,” said Egan, who explained that the 3,000 girls and religious sisters at Girlstown greeted pilgrims like rock stars the next day.

“The welcome was just overwhelming,” he said. Pilgrims attended Mass with the girls and were deeply moved by their piety and love for Jesus in the Eucharist.

“It was so humbling to see the girls worship,” Eagan said. “I have never been to a Mass, even with adults, with such rapt attention to the Eucharist.”

Barreto concurred. “You just see their devotion to their faith. It’s such an example to us all,” she said, adding that the girls were joyful, smiling and thanking the pilgrims for their support and contributions. “And I’m sitting there thinking, ‘We should be thanking them!’”

Sacha said she was moved by the experience. “When you go there and you hear the stories of where these girls came from, to see where they are now, they are like angels.”

“They are living saints right before you. They have a lot to teach us. They taught us a lot about hope that afternoon,” she said, noting that the fourth annual Legatus-Papal Foundation pilgrimage is scheduled for Oct. 21-24, 2016.

The visits to the basilica and Girlstown complement each other well, she said. “You see a historical miracle that happened and the next day you see a living miracle.”

BRIAN FRAGA is a Legatus magazine staff writer.