Dear Brothers and Sisters,

In the coming months, there will be three pilgrimage opportunities you are invited to join.  The first will be April 5 with Bishop Burbidge to the National Shrine in Washington, DC. This one-day pilgrimage will be part of the journey through Lent.  Pilgrims from throughout the diocese will gather for Mass at 10:30 am in the Upper Church of the Basilica, with Bishop Burbidge as the principal celebrant and homilist. Pilgrims will have the opportunity to pray the Rosary in multiple languages in various national chapels, attend Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament in the Blessed Sacrament Chapel, receive the Sacrament of Reconciliation in the Crypt Church, and walk with Jesus through the Stations of the Cross.  For more information, please contact Diogenes Ruiz.

June 20-28 I will lead a pilgrimage into the heart of Mayan Spirituality.  Guatemala, located in Central America is recognized as the heart of the Mayan civilization.  The highlight of the pilgrimage will be a visit to our sister parish in Las Margaritas II, where we’ll celebrate the Eucharist with our brothers and sisters with whom we have been in relationship for over 20 years. As we explore their culture and spirituality, we’ll marvel at majestic volcanoes, roam cobblestone streets that twist past historic churches and monuments, and embrace the warm culture of the Guatemalan people.  In the months leading up to June, we’ll gather for some wonderful meals to build community and learn more about the places and people we will be visiting.  This pilgrimage (limited to 20) includes overnights in Coban, Las Margaritas, Antigua, and Guatemala City. On Saturday, February 8 at 6:30 pm there will be an information night (following Mass), at which time I’ll share all the details of this exciting adventure.  Please contact Sheila Read for more information or to drop off a deposit to secure a seat. This pilgrimage is especially designed for parishioners who have never been to our sister parish and would like to enrich their spirituality through visiting our brothers and sisters in Guatemala.

Labor Day weekend (August 31) we’ll depart for Franciscan Italy and an opportunity to immerse ourselves in the tradition, mission, and contemplation of our patron, Francis of Assisi.  After landing in Rome, we’ll head directly to Assisi for four nights, followed by four nights in Florence.  We’ll complete our time in Italy with three nights in the northern lake region, returning from Milan to RDU on September 12.  As I’ve done with past pilgrimages, we’ll gather in the months leading up to our departure to build community, enjoy Italian cuisine, and learn about the great artwork and history which we’ll be experiencing. To inquire about Italy, please contact Joan Port.

Throughout our lives we are on pilgrimage – seeking the way of Jesus, the presence of God.  Taking time apart on a pilgrimage is a way to be intentional about our search for God, traveling not as tourists, but as fellow parishioner pilgrims who also desire to enjoy the journey together.

In the peace of Christ,

Fr. Mark