Employees Embark on Assisi Pilgrimage

June 19th, 2024 | News

For more than 20 years Padua Franciscan High School has been on a mission to enhance its Franciscan heritage by sending members of the faculty and staff to Rome and Assisi so they can walk in the footsteps of St. Francis. On May 20 several of the nearly 50 pilgrims that have been sent on this trip, gathered in the Padua Library to have a prayer service and sendoff for the newest pilgrims, Elaine Heinzerling ’86 and Joe Eiben ’06 who were selected for this year’s journey.

For two weeks in June, the tandem visited sites from Rome to Assisi that were significant in the lives of St. Francis and his most faithful disciple, St. Clare.

“Our journey to Rome and Assisi was life changing.  We were able to walk, reflect and have Eucharist in places that Sts. Francis and Clare were.  Learning more about their ministry in such spiritual locations increased our understanding of what it means to be Franciscan.  I felt especially moved being able to pray before the original San Damiano Cross in Santa Chiara Church and to celebrate mass before the tomb of St. Francis in the Basilica of Saint Francis,” said Heinzerling of the experience.

During one of the homilies, Brother Stephen McMichael, OFM talked about how God is all around us each and every day. “God did not show up in the earthquake or fire or flood,” proclaimed McMichael, “but in the soft winds, in the everyday moments.”

This sentiment struck a chord with Government teacher, Joe Eiben. “I may not have had a big ah-ha moment that transcended time and space and soul, but many small quiet moments that reaffirmed God’s presence in our everyday life,” said Eiben. “Most of these moments happened with complete strangers in a foreign land. We were only connected through this pilgrimage.  We watched a shooting star together, we cried, laughed, and probably ate too much gelato together.  But overall, it was the companionship that made it.  Seeing each other not as strangers, but as pilgrims trying to get closer to God through St. Francis’s life.  And if God can do this more than 4,000 miles away, just imagine what he is doing at Padua.”

The school’s investment in these pilgrimages has paid dividends, as the faculty and staff are more than Franciscans in name only. By visiting places like Greccio, the Carceri, and the Basilica of St. Francis the pilgrims have been immersed in Franciscan charism which has only strengthened our Franciscan identity.