Pilgrims reflect on trip to Rome during bishops' ad limina
ROME — For the more than 40 pilgrims from the Diocese of Charlotte and the Archdiocese of Atlanta who made the transatlantic journey to Italy May 2 – 12 to accompany their bishops to Rome for the ad limina pilgrimage, the 10-day sojourn through Assisi, Siena, Orvieto and Rome created memories that will last a lifetime.
Here are some of their reactions to the graces and places they encountered along the way.
On seeing Pope Benedict XVI at the General Audience:
"I was thinking we are so privileged to be where we are sitting. To see him speaking in so many languages...there is really only one language, your heart...no matter what it is -English, Spanish, Polish, anything – it's all the same meaning.
And as I was looking when he was doing the English address for us, my daughter was a butterfly fanatic, a yellow butterfly came between my husband and I and as it went higher it disappeared, and I know she is with me... God gave me a sign that she is okay.
The pope talking to us and giving us the blessing, it filled my heart because it put me back on my journey again. I have a purpose and whatever God leads me to do I will do." – Charlotte Stargel, Archdiocese of Atlanta, a convert to Catholicism whose adult daughter passed away five years ago
"I was so happy to see him...It was my 'Papa'...so often we think of him as a frail old man, but what I saw was an 85-year-old man who is very strong for his age. His voice was very clear. It was a blessing to see that. It was like I came home, like my 'Papa' was there...I can't even describe it...there was a sense of peace and well-being that washed over me. It was pure joy." — Adrienne Wlodarczyk, Diocese of Charlotte
"I didn't feel like I was worthy to be sitting where I was sitting. It is so rare to have that position in the General Audience. I was so grateful that the diocese was able to get those seats, that experience of a lifetime...many lifetimes go without having that...it was very special...
I don't know that there is a single word to describe seeing the Holy Father, joy, happiness to see all the other people we have come to know on this pilgrimage, their humility...all the different emotions that humans experience during something that profound." — Tom Weber, Diocese of Charlotte
"Here's this man that's the head of our Church who is just a humble, good holy man who is doing the job that has been given to him. We know just from reading about him that if he had his druthers, he would be in Germany in a university somewhere teaching...He's carried the burden of caring for the sheep of the world because that is the job that God has given him...He has done it faithfully and well." — Deacon Brian McNulty
"We were so blessed to be up there, you didn't know you had 1,000 people behind us...it was so intimate...When it hit me, I started to cry...this is our 'Papa', our spiritual head. ...to see him face to face, I never expected that. I got a picture of him looking right at me." — Michelle McNulty, Diocese of Charlotte
"It was like he was looking right at us!" — Christine Hinton, Diocese of Charlotte
"I'm speechless! I'm one of the ladies who helps pour the oils at the chrism Mass at the Cathedral in Atlanta every year. This is really special. I am in awe!" — Patricia Hamil, Archdiocese of Atlanta
On the pilgrimage experience as a whole:
"I just converted a few years ago, so I went from not knowing anything about the Catholic faith, to diving in and learning so much from Father Roux, my CSS group, and through my prolife work...learning so much about faith...That this trip, being in the presence of the saints, and so many priests and the Holy Father...it just really reaffirmed for me that I am doing the right thing.
Like Father Eckert said, 'We're on the winning team.' When he said that, I felt so good. When he said one day we are going to ask 'Where did the Culture of Death go?' Just hearing him say that in the setting where we were, was so amazing."
"The whole trip was amazing, I learned so much...This was a profound, life-changing trip. Every single day, I said 'Wow!' It was even better than the day before. It was euphoric...a once in a lifetime opportunity" — Brice Griffin, Diocese of Charlotte
"Father John said there is something like being in the moment...whatever the experience is, allow yourself to be in the moment. ...I felt God say 'Just be here and enjoy what I have for you right now.
It was unbelievable. Overwhelming. It was total joy. To think that we are walking in the footsteps of all these saints is so powerful. I can't wait to get back and share the joy and encourage people to go on a pilgrimage...I knew it was going to be a wonderful experience but I had no idea how just impactful it would be." — Kathy Hinton, Diocese of Charlotte
"It was more of a physical presence, for a human being about what that faith is about...it almost makes it something you can touch...before it was like your faith was kind of out there as an entity you can't see necessarily or feel but when you come here you can touch it." — Charles Hinton, Diocese of Charlotte
"It's really funny, when we got on the bus when we first were all together, I didn't know anybody. And now I've made friendships that I know I will have for life. It's the most wonderful feeling in the world. It just lifts you up. It's wonderful to be with people who believe like you do...It's awesome! I run out of things to say...I have never been so lifted up in my life." — Adrienne Wlodarczyk, Diocese of Charlotte
"We've been really fortunate to hear wonderful homilists every Mass we've been to. We've been to the most special basilicas on the earth and to have wonderful homilists, the priests who have been with us, who appreciate the solemnity of the events...Sometimes you get overwhelmed by the art and the history, but if you then focus on the words of the homilist it all works in perfect unison...It's been unbelievably incredible. " — Tom Weber, Diocese of Charlotte
"All of it's overwhelming...there is so much! I loved the Scavi Tour, Assisi, the Poor Clares...I was touched." — Patricia Hamil, Archdiocese of Atlanta
"The saints have become more real in a city where the bones and burial places of so many of them are here. People can hear about them and pray to them sometimes and we hear their names at Sunday Mass all the time...their bones are here. They really were people who lived and died and struggled and we have those memories in our Church. It's very special." — Deacon Brian McNulty, Diocese of Charlotte
"It seemed like every day something better happened than the day before!" — Mike Griffin, Diocese of Charlotte
— SueAnn Howell, staff writer.
Read more about the whole trip in SueAnn's blog charlotteadlimina.tumblr.com