Ten students from St. Catherine University traveled 12 hours from Minneapolis/St. Paul to Le Puy for a pilgrimage to sacred sites of the Sisters of St. Joseph. For many, this was their first visit to France and Europe. Their spirits and smiles were 3 miles high and 5 miles wide despite the long journey. They spent a day in Lyon to learn about Mother St. John Fontbonne. Here they are with President Roloff and a sculpture of Mother St. John.
President ReBecca Koenig Roloff and her husband, Mark, spent the week with the group.
"Though I did not know what to expect, all expectations and hopes were surpassed. There is simply no substitution for time invested in something you care about--in this case the legacy of the CSJs. To experience it with students, faculty and staff made it all the more special because we could all just be one. It was also wonderful for me to be a participant in the process--not the leader, but the student. I had the chance to absorb and imagine. Both of you provided the security and comfort of a "home" in which everyone could relax, enjoy, savor, and reflect. Your hospitality made all that possible for not just Mark and me, but for everyone there. Students, especially, live in a world of constant evaluation and sometimes I feel that I do too. For a week, all of that was suspended. I've very grateful for all the joy you shared...." Becky Roloff
Faculty and staff made the pilgrimage as well. This included three sign language interpreters who were there to sign for one of the students who was hearing impaired.
Sr. Joan Lescinski and Sr. Kitty Hanley, both CSJs from Albany, served as directors for the pilgrimage.
"It is always a joy to see our holy places through the eyes of new visitors. The St Kate’s group came with open hearts and it was a delight to travel with them. LePuy cooperated with wonderful spring weather so we daily rejoiced in forsythia and flowering trees as well as the shrines, cathedral, and dear original kitchen. Olga and Eluiza epitomized CSSJ hospitality and made our stay homelike and comfortable, offering space for relaxation and reflection. Truly it was a privilege to be a part of this pilgrimage."
The group from St. Kate's flew from Minneapolis to Geneva and rode a bus to Le Puy to arrive at the International Centre just in time for lunch. President Roloff and Sr. Joan met them at the front gate.
Sr. Kitty pointed out that there are three types of travel. A tourist visits places for the fun of it. A traveler visits places to learn about a people's culture. A pilgrim visits places with spiritual intentions and in search of spiritual gifts. Every night the group met for prayer to reflect on the gifts of the day.
The days were sunny and warm. The nights were clear, cool, and crisp. One night after prayer, Sisters Kitty and Joan invited the group to look the stars and marvel at God's many blessings.
Getting to travel to France with St. Kate's and learn about our history has been one of my favorite experiences as an undergrad. I loved getting to meet Sisters and learning about the incredible Sisters that committed their lives with the charism of St. Joseph. Le Puy gave me memories that I will cherish for life, one being the incredible hospitality that we received everywhere we went. I hope one day to return again, but for now, I will remember Le Puy and its people by the lace that I purchased and the stones I took with me from [Mother St. John] Fontbonne's beautiful burial place. Andrea
The LePuy Pilgrimage was the most faith-filled, and heart opening experience I have had so far in my life. The ability to retrace the steps of the sisters who have come before me and paved the way to a world filled of charism, and service. I am glad to have come on this pilgrimage as a first year student. I am excited to continue to spread the word of the sisters of St. Joseph to my fellow peers and those around me at St. Catherine University. I enjoyed getting to see the mother house and to be able to take a step back in time by setting foot in the original kitchen.Summer
St. Joseph School
St. Kate's was greeted by the students of St. Joseph School with songs from the choir--in English and French. Students from the school's international program attended the assembly.
The French students prepared a brief introduction of their school and St. Kate's students were invited to summarize what the university offers students.
Bex, campus minister at St. Kate's, used a keyboard to lead a song. Ashaley (left) used sign language interpretation for one of the students who is hearing impaired. The French students were fascinated and said the signing looked like a dance.
Martine Wendzinski is the director of the International Program at St. Joseph School. She is devoted to the mission of the Sisters of St. Joseph and provides students with exchanges with schools in the United States, Canada, Puerto Rico, Europe, and Australia.
The students broke up into four groups and conducted discussions--in English--on the following questions.
Students shared their responses to the questions for 90 minutes and then continued with their own sharings on topics such as video games, music, movies, and leisure activities.
The St. Joseph School students greeted the St. Kate's group with a reception of juice, coffee, and pastry treats. The students also served a lunch of salads, deli meats, cheese, apricot pastry, wine and coffee. After a two-hour walk on the Camino, the students provided a snack of juice and pastries.
The visit was particularly special for the St. Kate's group because they had a unique opportunity to interact with French people.
On the Camino
St. Joseph students accompanied St. Kate's students and staff on a two-hour walk on the Camino of St. Jacques -- the Way of St. James of Compostela. Le Puy was one of the first Camino pilgrimages and has been followed by pilgrims for the past 800 years.
Marja, a long-time resident of Le Puy and a volunteer with the school and several other organizations, helped to lead the group on the Camino. Here she explains the French three routes of the Camino.
Mass at the Cathedral of Notre Dame
Mass began at 7:30 a.m. so the group had breakfast at 6:15 and left the Centre for a 30-minute walk to the Cathedral. It was most fortunate to have Bishop Luc Crepy as the celebrant.
After the Mass, the bishop invited everyone to the place where pilgrims on the Camino are blessed for their journey. He gave them medals of Notre Dame as well as rosaries. He asked them to pray for other pilgrims' intentions and to write down their own and put it in a box. The group then prayed a "Hail Mary" to the Black Madonna. Bex, campus minister for St. Kate's, led everyone to sing "Salve Regina."
One of the sisters who is missioned to minister at the Cathedral opened up the grates of the center aisle that leads down the steps of the Cathedral and starts the pilgrims on their journey. The students were quite dazzled by this demonstration.
Lyon -- Mother St. John Fontbonne
The St. Kate's group spent a day in Lyon learning about Mother St. John Fontbonne who re-gathered the sisters into a community in 1808 after the French Revolution. They visited the Living History Center of the Lyon Sisters of St. Joseph and a replica of Mother St. John's bedroom. Sr. Rita Bujold (center in photo above), an American sister of Lyon, served as the guide.
One of the highlights of their visit was a stop at the gravesite of Mother St. John. They prayed a bit, sang a bit, and layed flowers on her grave.
|Students pose with President ReBecca Roloff at the gravesite.|
|Staff pose at the gravesite.|
The Last Day
The week-long pilgrimage ended with a bus trip back to Geneva and with stops to Bas-en-Basset (birthplace of Mother St. John Fontbonne) and Monistrol (Mother St. John's first mission). It was one last chance to visit the boulangerie, too. Students indulged themselves with baguettes, croissants, pizza, and French pastries.
The owner of the boulangerie (left) was so impressed with the students that she gave them a sliced loaf of fig bread to try.