Dear Brothers and Sisters,

This summer as I celebrate the silver jubilee of my profession of vows as a Franciscan, I have taken the opportunity to reflect upon what it has meant for me to live as a Franciscan and the joy that I continue to experience in a life shared with brothers committed to a gospel way of life.  My favorite city in all of the world is probably Assisi, Italy.  I recall the first time I saw the city from a distance and climbed its hills.  I was with Fr. Kevin Cronin, O.F.M. and a group of young people on a vocation pilgrimage.  Assisi was then, and continues to be, a place of active contemplation filled with the peace and spirit of Francis.

 As I always enjoy sharing this special city with fellow pilgrims, I will be leading a pilgrimage to Franciscan Italy, departing on Easter Monday, April 9, 2012 and returning on Friday, April 20. We will have an opportunity to rest, pray, shop (yes, there will be time for shopping!) and wander throughout the hillside cities of Italy where our patron Francis did.

 Arriving in Rome, we will head north to Orvieto for lunch, then travel to Florence, the jewel of the Renaissance for the first of three nights. Enroute to Assisi we will enjoy Siena and the Tuscan hillside.  During our four-night stay in Assisi, we will visit all of the places that were so special to Francis and Clare, from the baptismal font in the cathedral to their tombs in the Basilicas that bear their names.  We will also journey to the mountain LaVerna, where Francis received the stigmata.  On the way to Rome we will enjoy the Rieti Valley and celebrate Christmas in Grecchio, where Francis created the nativity scene.  Our pilgrimage will conclude in the eternal city with a Wednesday morning audience with Pope Benedict as he celebrates his 85th birthday.  We will tour the city, churches and plazas of Rome before we head home with memories to last a lifetime.

 An information night will be held Saturday, August 27 at 7:00 pm in

Anthony Hall Founders Room.  At that time I’ll share all the details of the pilgrimage, including prices, and begin taking deposits.  As with previous pilgrimages, in the months leading up to our departure we’ll have opportunities for pilgrims to gather and build community as we brush up on the Italian language and our culinary and artistic skills.

 In the peace of Christ,

Fr. Mark,