Paul VI students head to Rome

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Senior Ashlyn Eby chose to journey to Rome to see the Oct. 14 canonization of Pope Paul VI because she knew her mother wanted to go. At first, Eby, who along with her mother converted to Catholicism her freshman year at Paul VI Catholic High School in Fairfax, was intimidated by the religiosity of the trip.

In addition to visiting places of historical and artistic significance, such as the Colosseum and the Trevi fountain, the 19 students and 15 parents will visit every major basilica and attend Mass daily. But as the weeklong trip neared, Eby became more excited about the possibility of deepening her faith through the journey.

“Now (I’ve) become more focused on going to the Vatican, going to see the stairs Jesus walked on, going to see Paul VI’s grave,” said Eby. Her fellow students said seeing the Eternal City, eating gelato, witnessing the canonization and growing closer to Christ as their motivations for joining the group. They plan to send back updates to the school throughout the week, including a video of the canonization Mass. “It’s an once-in-a-lifetime opportunity that helps us connect with our school,” said junior Daniela Alvarez.

Junior Olivia Bolton’s family has a special relationship to the soon-to-be sainted pontiff. Her grandfather was the Vatican correspondent for the Associated Press during Paul VI’s pontificate. “Any AP article about Vatican II was written by my dad,” said Olivia’s father, Ben Bolton, who will accompany her on the trip.

Ben was baptized in St. Peter’s Basilica and he and his family had an audience with the pope in 1967when he was 5 years old. Both he and Olivia are looking forward to the day. “My dad has since passed away, but I feel like I need to go to the canonization in his honor and in his place,” said Ben.

This will be the first trip to Rome for many of the pilgrims, including Father Stephen M. Schultz, school chaplain. “I've never been that much of a traveler. Paul VI is getting me out of my usual boundaries,” he said. “The canonization of our namesake, it’s really a singular event. We want to celebrate and thank God. We have a saint who is praying for us.”

After the canonization, the school plans to change its name to St. Paul VI Catholic High School, said Head of School Ginny Colwell. That change might be more prominent at the signage of the school’s future home in Loudoun County. They plan to move from the Fairfax campus to the new building by fall of 2020. Father Schultz hopes the school’s chapel will have stained glass windows featuring Paul VI.

During the pilgrimage, he hopes the students will learn more about the school’s namesake known for penning the encyclical “Humanae Vitae” and for concluding the Second Vatican Council. Paul VI also had a great love for young people, Father Schultz said.

“I hope they learn about the importance of evangelization. The Gospel needs to be proclaimed in an authentic way. Paul VI was a great teacher,” he said. “(I hope they) learn to be the sons and daughters of God that the church needs at this time.”

© Arlington Catholic Herald 2018