Easter week 2015 – saw me spending the week on pilgrimage in Rome with Fr. Shane and the St. Al’s youth group from Tuam. It was a week I will never forget for the all the right reasons, not just because of the remarkable places we visited, the 131,000 steps we walked, the 22 Churches we prayed in, the audience with the Pope we attended, but it will remain with me primarily because of the people I spent the week with, the conversations we shared and the encounters we experienced as a group of vibrant young Irish Catholics being led by one awesome Irish American priest.
“Quo Vadis – Where are you going??? “ – was perhaps without knowing it, the theme of our pilgrimage. I think from the various conversations shared over pizza, prayer and gelato throughout the week that many of our young pilgrims were seriously contemplating this question for their own lives and found the story shared by Fr. Shane at the Church of Quo Vadis quite significant for the story of their own lives. Fr. Shane shared that it was at this Church that St. Peter, on his way out of Rome to avoid the persecutions met with Jesus, who was walking towards Rome. Jesus stopped him and asked “Quo Vadis – Where are you going?” Peter responded that he was leaving Rome to avoid the persecutions. Jesus went to continue towards Rome and so Peter asked him “Quo Vadis?” to which Jesus responded “I am going to be crucified with my people.” Peter returned to Rome with Jesus. I think the all the young people were really touched by this story and the journey we then undertook from Quo Vadis Church to St. Peter’s following in the footsteps of both Jesus and Peter. The sharing of the story of St Peter and his encounter with the Risen Jesus and that hard but important question, ”where are you going?” really caused them to have a real moment with Jesus, asking Him that question about their own life’s and their own journey of faith.
Fr. Shane planned and led the week in a truly admirable and Christ like fashion. His style of leadership was truly one of servant leadership. He helped keep our focus always on the purpose of pilgrimage and every time he shared or spoke it was so profound and powerful. What was so evident and clear throughout the entire week was how much the Holy Spirit was using him as His instrument to lead these beautiful and vibrant young people to become the most amazing and best version of themselves that God is calling them to be.