Chaminade Scholars Pilgrimage to Italy

By Victoria Schoen

I was blessed to be one of 16 students to go on a pilgrimage to Italy for 11 days after finals week this semester. With the guidance of Sr. Angela Ann Zukowski and Elizabeth Montgomery, our Chaminade Scholars cohort was able to step out of our normal ways of thinking and experiencing God. We also had so many generous people from the UD community and beyond that brought this time of spiritual growth and beauty to life for us. Our sincere thanks go out to each of you. You were undoubtedly in our prayers then and now.

We began our pilgrimage in Assisi and ended in Rome. In the reflection that I have done, I see the differences yet equal importance of both of these places as the culmination of our Vocation and the Arts course. Both places in Italy gave us unforgettable experiences that we will hold with us forever. Assisi was a beautiful, quiet place that I felt a deep sense of peace in. A peace that I could see spread throughout my cohort. Together, as one community that was formed our first year in college, we walked in the footsteps of St. Claire and St. Francis. We stepped into beautiful churches and basilicas that really showed their beauty not from what we could see but what we could feel. Often there were not many words to describe the holy and powerful presences that were felt as we stood in spiritual alliance with Claire and Francis in the places of their journeys, prayers, encounters with God, and even deaths.

Assisi taught us how to feel the beauty and goodness that was present in a place, sometimes looking past the obvious exterior beauty. We definitely used what we had learned in Rome as the beautiful, holy places we went to there were crowded with tourists. Rome overwhelmed my heart in two different ways. I was overwhelmed because we were in these incredible places, such as St. Peter’s Basilica, surrounded by people who were only there for the pictures. Those people desperately need to take Sr. Angela Ann’s Vocation and the Arts class! These places were difficult to feel prayerful in because of the busyness that consumed them. At first glance, these places were just stops along the way on a vacation to Rome. However, at Chami glance, they were places with rich history and purpose that connect our faith back to the roots of our first Pope, St. Peter. My heart was overwhelmed in this second way as I was able to connect my experience in Assisi with this new and different experience in Rome. I began to look past the exterior busyness and resort to my inner feelings of faith that pointed me to the true beauty of our Catholic Church in these places.

Our time in Rome prepared us to come back to the reality of our lives not just in America but at the University of Dayton. Going to both Assisi and Rome are integral parts to this trip and to our Chaminade Scholars experience as a whole. These places gave us interactions with incredibly holy and beautiful places that we don’t always get to experience in our everyday lives. Extreme moments of grace prepare us to recognize more fully the seemingly ordinary moments of grace and encounter that occur every day. Especially as college students, we often live more in the busyness that we experienced in Rome. Running from place to place. Checking things off a list or our calendars. But what we have learned is that we must take the time to stop and look. To stop and feel the presence of Christ in every place that we go and with every person that we encounter. Even in the seemingly ordinary places and times. Our encounters in Italy were not just meant for those 11 days. In being on a pilgrimage, we are continuing the journey that was started there and that started when we entered the Chaminade Scholars program -- the journey to discover our own authenticity and mission through encountering beauty and grace each and every moment of our lives.

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