Why a Pilgrimage

for Educators?

by Sister Mary Rachel Capets, O.P., Ph.D, Pilgrimage Leader


A pilgrimage is a journey of faith that recreates in miniature our life’s journey to our heavenly homeland. As we travel toward Heaven, we travel together. Pilgrimages provide a living experience of Catholic culture through communal prayer, celebrating together the liturgy of the Church, coming to better know the saints and striving to imitate them, and sharing meals together while unpacking the graces of the day. It is a beautiful, joyful experience of communion and community.

Pilgrimages have been a part of the history of Judaism and Christianity for centuries. In fact, every world religion encourages some type of pilgrimage experience. This tells us something about our nature as human beings as well as what a pilgrimage can provide: perhaps it is the need to travel, the need to visit holy places, the need to see things differently, or to see things in a new and fresh way. Having studied both in the United States and in Australia, it occurred to me how young these two countries are in comparison with others. A pilgrimage to the Holy Land or to Rome puts us in touch with the ancient and foundational sacred places of our faith. 


Very often today, people do not have an experience of a strong faith community. When you travel with others on pilgrimage, you begin to share life and faith together. This creates a strong bond of community. As images of the Trinity, we are made to be in community with one another, and going on pilgrimage provides a model of community that people can take back to their schools, parishes, and families.


I have found that many educators are hungry for more in their lives. Sometimes educators feel ill-equipped to share their faith, or less confident in sharing the teachings of the Gospel, the teachings of the Church. My hope is that this pilgrimage experience will allow our educators to see more clearly that the Lord has chosen them and sent them to a particular school and to a particular group of people—that the Lord is relying on them to share His love! My hope is that these educators would see themselves and their vocations in the heart of the Church and then speak with confidence about a Love they have experienced first-hand.


Pilgrimage, as David Carrasco puts it, provides a combination of solemnity and play. There are serious and solemn aspects of pilgrimage, but there are also fun and light-hearted moments. All of these can be shared during our evening colloquies while we will enjoy Italian meals together. Each day of the pilgrimage is situated between two “meals”: the Eucharistic meal of the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass and the evening meal. Community is built at both “tables” where our souls and bodies are fed.


The mission of Catholic education is to create a culture of encounter. The goal is that the pilgrimage will not only benefit those who attend, but subsequently, those to whom they are sent—the young people we teach! I have seen and heard of wonderful graces, of a fire that is lit in the hearts of teachers that the students “catch” by association. Students can see if their teachers and principals love the Lord and care deeply about His teachings, and so the pilgrimage has the potential to ignite the fire of educators so that their words and teaching are more effective in the lives of young people. The effect of the pilgrimage is seen most poignantly when young people begin to say “I want to go on pilgrimage” or “I want to pray the way you pray.” In a sense, they echo what the disciples said to Jesus: “Teach us how to pray.”