To the chair of St. Peter
Local pilgrims visit Rome, see pope, pass through Holy Doors
By Jeff Kurowski
Compass Assistant Editor
Bp. Robert Banks led a group of nearly 200 people from the Diocese of Green Bay to Vatican City on a
Holy Pilgrimage June 16 to 23. The diocesan pilgrimage group returned from Rome last week tired
from the long journey, but holding memories that will last a lifetime.
Terri Wickman, secretary to Bp. Robert Banks, kisses the papal ring. Wickman was one of 180 people who traveled to Rome with Bp. Banks (right) June 16-23. The group took part in the weekly general audience with the pope, during which two men and two women from the group were able to personally meet the Holy Father. (Vatican photo)
A highlight of the trip was the weekly general audience in St. Peter Square, as well as visits to each of
the four basilicas of Rome: St. Peter, St. Mary Major, St. Paul Outside the Walls and St. John Lateran.
Visits were also made to the catacombs, the Coloseum and the Sistine Chapel.
On a free day, some took advantage of a side trip to Assissi.
Despite some travel problems, those who made the trip to Rome came away with a renewed sense of the
history of the church, memories of the Holy Father and new insights into the Eternal City that has seen
so much of the history of Christianity. Cindi Brawner, diocesan director of stewardship and
development, said the group returned home "rejuvenated and renewed in faith and happy to have been
able to celebrate the Jubilee Year 2000 with a visit to Rome and an audience with the Holy Father."
"It was absolutely wonderful," said Lisa Ourada, a member of St. Hyancinth Parish, Antigo. "It's hard to
describe it in words. Seeing the pope was a highlight of course."
Ourada said the experience was even more special because she shared it with her mother, Joyce Sharon,
and sister, Sue Brettingen.
Other highlights for Ourada included the trip to Assisi and celebrating Mass with Bp. Robert Banks at
"It was a real privilege to have Bp. Banks say Mass," she said. "He is a good shepherd."
Carrie Gapinski, a sophomore at Notre Dame Academy, Green Bay, and a member of Holy Cross
Parish, Bay Settlement, also traveled with family members. She made the trip with her parents and four
"It went really well," she said. "Seeing the pope twice was great."
The group followed a full tour schedule including visits to the four major basilicas, including St. Paul
Outside the Walls and St. John Lateran on the first day. Bp. Banks celebrated Mass at St. Mary Major
on day two. St. Mary Major, also one of the major basilicas, was built in 500 AD. St. Matthew is buried
in the main altar. The remainder of the week included visits to St. Susanna Church, the official
American Church of Rome, the Sistine Chapel, St. Peter's Basilica, the Colosseum, Trevi Fountain and
the trip to Assisi.
"There was very beautiful marble and art everywhere you looked," wrote Jean Bachmann, office
manager of the diocesan department of Pastoral Services in her trip journal. "I also liked the small
churches we visited."
The pilgrims united to celebrate Mass throughout the week, an experience that stood out for Bachmann.
"I liked our liturgies together. There were excellent music choices, group participation, excellent
homilies and everyone was together, not split up in tours," she wrote.
For Cindi Brawner, the pilgrimage helped her to experience and feel the sense of universal church and
unity among Catholics from the time of Jesus to the present.
She said that she enjoyed seeing the various basilicas, churches, historical places and works of art and
wished for even more time to soak up many of them.
The pilgrimage also allowed her to see "the most disconcerting spot I've visited" - the catacombs of St.
"The idea of the catacombs is fascinating and frightening and inspiring all at the same time," Brawner
wrote in her trip journal.
"Fascinating, because of how large they are - 500,000 tombs of people buried here alone. There are 60
other catacombs of like proportions" used as "burial grounds for pagans and Christians," she wrote, but
lost for 10 centuries, then discovered in the mid-1800s.
"Frightening," she continued "because of the maze-like deep series of tombs and tunnels on six levels
under the ground. It would be impossible not to become lost if things were not lit and marked.
"Inspiring when you realize that many people and families lived in the catacombs in order to freely
practice the faith. The altars and rooms used for conducting the Eucharist were very small, cramped,
dank and damp today - and that's with a more extensive ventilation system. The number of people martyred for their faith in this area is almost beyond comprehension," Brawner wrote.
"It's overwhelming when you are there," said Ourada. "You see so much that it's hard to process everything. I am reflecting on the trip now that I am back. I can't wait to make another trip."