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Pilgrimage to Rome inspires St. Paul VI students

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Paul VI became pope in 1963. During his pontificate, he traveled to five continents, meeting with people of various religions. He became the first pope to address the United Nations. Following his example of religious travel, 18 students and 14 adults from St. Paul VI Catholic High School in Fairfax traveled to Rome for his canonization in October.

There were many opportunities for the students to grow in and experience their faith firsthand. They touched the World Youth Day Cross blessed by Pope John Paul II. They saw relics, such as pieces said to be from Jesus’ manger, his cross, and the table from the Last Supper.

“It was very surreal to be so close to the manger Jesus was born in, and I could really feel His presence,” said junior Rebecca DuBois.

A replica of the Shroud of Turin helped students imagine the reality of what Jesus went through and the importance of their faith. They were advised to “pray big” during the trip, and that is just what they did.

They were able to pray at the tombs of many saints including Peter, Paul, Catherine of Siena, and Ignatius of Loyola. During a daytrip to Assisi, they also were able to pray at the tombs of Sts. Francis and Clare.

They visited the tomb of and learned about Antonietta Meo. She passed away at age 6 after extreme sufferings that she offered to God, revealed through her beautiful letters. If canonized, she will be the youngest non-martyr to become a saint.

Father Stephen J. Schultz, chaplain, offered Mass at the tomb of St. Peter in the Vatican grotto. Here, the pilgrims also were given the opportunity to pray at the tomb of the school’s namesake, Pope Paul VI.

All of these amazing opportunities allowed the pilgrims to grow closer as a school community. “I was able to share the great experience of witnessing God with all of my classmates and be connected with them on a spiritual level,” said junior Kara Young.

Pope Paul VI was canonized Oct. 14 alongside Archbishop Oscar Romero, Sister Nazaria Ignacia March Mesa, Sister Maria Katharina Kasper, Francesco Spinelli, Vincent Romano and Nunzio Sulprizio.

“Thousands of people who came from all over the world were all so happy, and it was just a great feeling to have everyone around you have so much joy,” said sophomore Sophia Whitfield. “I enjoyed high-fiving everybody and cheering.”

Pope Francis even gave the enthusiastic students a thumbs-up from the popemobile as he circled St. Peter’s Square. It was the adventure of a lifetime, one that will live on in not just the memories of those who attended, but those of the whole Paul VI community. 


© Arlington Catholic Herald 2018