As part of part of a tradition dating back more than 20 years, Padua annually sends members of the faculty and staff on a two-week pilgrimage to Rome and Assisi, where they walk in the footprints of St. Francis and St. Clare of Assisi. The pilgrimage program began in 2001 under the guidance and encouragement of former President, Fr. Walter Dolan, OFM, and former Principal, Mr. Timothy Giulivo as a means to enhance the Franciscan culture in the school. This year’s pilgrims were theology teacher Eileen Herlihy ’09 and Spanish teacher Edith Quimper.
Ever since her days as a student at Padua, Eileen had felt drawn to the life of Francis, so when the opportunity arose in December of 2019, she applied. New to Padua in 2019, Edith Quimper had been impressed by the Padua community and wanted to learn more about Francis and Clare, which also prompted her to apply for the pilgrimage. Both were awarded the opportunity, an opportunity that would unfortunately be delayed for three long years due to Covid. “Instead of feeling frustrated at the elapsed time, I tried to remind myself that God works in mysterious ways, and in God’s own time,” reflected Herlihy.
Finally, this July, after a sendoff dinner and prayer service with former pilgrims, Herlihy and Quimper departed for central Italy, ready to be immersed in prayer, spiritual reflection, and learning, all grounded in Franciscan tradition. The pilgrimage included visits to small towns like Greccio and Assisi as well as sacred places such as La Verna, the Basilica of St. Francis, San Damiano, Our Lady of the Angels, and more. While in Rome, the pilgrimage included visits to the church of St. John Lateran and the Vatican where they were in attendance at an audience with Pope Francis.
While each day was filled with touching and memorable moments, a ritual known as the “Clare Walk” stood out profoundly for both pilgrims. The walk commemorated St. Clare’s decision to leave her life as a noble woman and follow God’s call to imitate Francis and traced her physical route in doing so. As the ladies reflected on their time in Italy, they noted how the trip impacted them both. “While we still have many ways to grow in our understanding of St. Francis and St. Clare, the chance to visit these holy places was a blessed opportunity for us that we will cherish forever.”
Thanks to the school’s steadfast commitment to preserving and growing our Franciscan traditions, nearly 50 Padua employees have participated in the Assisi pilgrimage to date. Their experience has greatly contributed to the strong Franciscan spirit that exists at Padua Franciscan High School today and for generations to come.