Monday, October 23, about 35 friars gathered at Bergamo Center in Dayton, OH for what would prove to be a wonderful experience. About 15 members of the group stayed at Bergamo for the week and experienced the "Virtual Pilgrimage" via video tape of the presentations. The rest of us boarded a bus Tuesday morning for a four day, four city pilgrimage under the able leadership of Fr. Tom Speier, O.F.M. and our bus driver, Major Charles Thomas (Retired USAF). (Fr. Tom is seen waving in the picture on the left and with Mr. Thomas on the right).
Our first stop on Tuesday was at St. John Cemetery in Cincinnati, OH where 25 of the founding members of our Province are buried. This was a powerful experience as we processed (part of the procession pictured on the left) to the grave site in very chilly weather to pray and reflect on what these men did. Some of them died at the early ages of 17 and 20 and 21. Here were men who left their homeland and their culture to spread the Gospel to German immigrants in the Cincinnati area. It is on their shoulders that we stand today as members of the same province. We also visited the grave site in Pittsburgh where the founding members from Slovakia are buried.
On Wednesday, on our way to Pittsburgh, we stopped to eat our box lunches along the road. As you can see in the picture, the weather continued to be chilly. Our reason to visit Pittsburgh was to reflect on the origins of the Slovakian friars who, in 2000, joined the Province of Saint John the Baptist. While spending some quiet time prior to celebrating the Eucharist in Pittsburgh I snapped the picture of Fr. Cyprian (on the right). Cyprian was an inspiration to all of us on the bus trip. From Pittsburgh we moved on to Detroit to visit what was Duns Scotus College, the place where most of us studied philosophy and earned our undergraduate degrees.
The Pilgrimage ended at St. Leonard Senior Living Community in Centerville, OH which was, again for most of us, St. Leonard College where we studied theology and where many friars were ordained to the Priesthood. Here the "virtual pilgrims" joined the bus group for a closing meal, tour of the facility, and Eucharist. At right you can see Fr. Fred Link, O.F.M., our Minister Provincial leading us at Mass. At the closing we each renewed our vows as Friars Minor.
I, of course, cannot speak for every friar on the pilgrimage, but I certainly found it inspiring and uplifting. I am thankful to those who worked so hard to make it possible. It was a great experience in fraternity.