Written by BILL RYAN Sentinel Religion Editor
Thursday, 25 April 2013 10:39
Members of St. Rose Parish, Perrysburg, and others in the Diocese of Toledo recently made a trip to the Holy Land and Rome. The journey was a true pilgrimage.
|Msgr. Bill Kubacki poses with Old City of Jerusalem in the background. (Photo courtesy of Margaret McDaniel)
“We walked in the sandals of Jesus,” said Denise Winston, who attends Our Lady of Lourdes Parish, Toledo, calling it her “trip of a lifetime.”
Monsignor Bill Kubacki of the Catholic Diocese of Toledo, was the spiritual leader of the pilgrimage.
“The whole trip was planned in this ‘Year of Faith’. We wanted to look at the very beginnings of Christianity in the Holy Land, and the founding of the early church in Rome,” Kubacki said.
The priest called this March 4-15 journey, “one of the top most important undertakings in my priestly ministry.”
A major bonus for the pilgrims was their visit to Rome coincided with the Conclave and election of Pope Francis.
They saw pieces of the entire history of thwe church from Jesus’ birth to other biblical sites in both the Holy Land and Rome.
Kubacki noted ancient history and the new pope, saying, “We were part of a historical piece of not only church history, but of all history.”
The group was excited to learn the long-planned trip would take them to Rome at the time of the Conclave, which elected a new pope.
Even more surprising was the fact that the Mass of the Conclave, the last public appearance before the cardinals locked themselves behind closed doors, would be open to the public. The local pilgrims sought and gained admission and celebrated with all the cardinals who chose Francis as the next leader of the Roman Catholic Church.
“We knew one of those cardinals was going to be the new pope,” said Margaret McDaniel who attends St. Rose. She and the others called it a “highlight.”
|Pilgrims visit at the church at St. Jerome (Photo courtesy of Albert Geha)
Beyond that Mass, the group regularly joined the multitudes as they went to St. Peter’s Square for the scheduled “viewing of the smoke.”
They waited through the rains after seeing the white smoke and were present when Francis made his first appearance as pope.
“It was pouring down rain,” recalled Albert Geha.
His wife, Rose, quickly added, “But it didn’t deter anyone.”
The Gehas live in Waterville and attend Historic St. Patrick’s in Toledo.
Winston said the group was fortunate the rain stopped prior to the pope’s appearance.
They all shared the festive atmosphere in the square from the time of the white smoke through Francis’ appearance and blessing. They spoke of how the crowds multiplied when the tolling bells brought numerous others to the square.
“It was extremely powerful to be there with people from around the world and experience the excitement,” Kubacki said.
He noted the new pope’s “humility in ministry” right from the beginning as he was “asking for our prayers.”
Despite that special moment, most found the trip to the Holy Land the most spiritual.
Kubacki celebrated Mass for the group and they attended Mass at many holy places from the Bible.
Rose Kuceyeski, a Perrysburg resident who attends Holy Rosary Cathedral, Toledo, noted how the visit helps her better understand the gospel stories.
“We truly walked in Jerusalem. When I go to Mass, now I can see all these places,” Kuceyeski said.
She and the others shared how a gospel reading shortly after their return home was set at the Sea of Galilee. During the trip they visited that site where the risen Jesus met his disciples.
“We were right there at the Sea of Galilee,” Albert Geha said. “I got goose bumps.”
Both he and McDaniel felt it was powerful to be at the site of the “Primacy of St. Peter.”
Rose Geha added, “It made our faith stronger. You can hear about all this, but now you can really connect.”
“Now I know what it all looks like,” McDaniel added.
The group also shared how much they enjoyed visiting and seeing the mountainside area where Jesus performed his miracle of the multiplication of loaves and fishes.
They were also deeply touched by the mixture of the cultures in Old Jerusalem as they walked near the mosques, synagogues and Christian churches, and all the people of the various faiths mingled peacefully.
“The Muslims, the Jewish people and the Christians, all coexisting as well as possible,” Winston said.
Albert Geha added how thousands and thousands of faithful were “very devotional” at the Western Wall (Wailing Wall) in Old Jerusalem. He said he was very impressed with the volume of people gathered and their display of faith.
The entire group praised the security everywhere they journeyed and how safe they felt throughout their visits.
“The group knew it was a pilgrimage and they were into it,” Kubacki said. “We experienced history and prayer and had Mass at some of the most holy places.”