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Pilgrimage to Italy

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S: Pilgrimage to Italy

FC: Pilgrimage to Italy

1: On October 22, 2011 a group of 48 from Rhode Island and Pennsylvania met, under unique circumstances, in Rome Italy, to begin a Pilgrimage that would take them through several regions of Italy. The trip was planned to celebrate the Canonization of Father Louis Guanella into Sainthood as well as to travel to his birthplace in Campodolcino, Italy, while exploring his life as a child, servant and priest. Don Guanella, a Priest of the Mountain, Father of the Poor, is best known for his works of mercy with adults and children who were poor and/or mentally handicapped. The Don Guanella School was started in Springfield, PA, in 1960, by the Servants of Charity. For a long time it was run by Father Peter. Noreen Yoder worked at the school during this time. Father Peter left Don Guanella and was transferred to Sacred Heart Parish, in Providence, RI, where he has been their Pastor for many years. In 2003, a young boy, Bill Glisson, Jr., from Delaware County, PA, suffered a very serious, traumatic injury to the brain during a roller blading accident. Doctors gave Bill's parents little hope of survival. Donna & Bill Glisson, Sr. were close friends with the Yoder Family. When Noreen Yoder heard the news about Bill, she took a Relic of Don Guanella's to Donna, so that it could be placed on Bill in the hospital. The family and the entire Guanella School and community began to pray for Bill's recovery. Bill survived! It was nothing short of a miracle. And, thus, it took Father Peter 10 years of hard work and tedious documentation surrounding Bill's miracle, to present to the Vatican Counsel, the needed validation to elevate Don Guanella to Sainthood. He was relentless and worked tirelessly with the Vatican to prove that Bill's survival was the direct result of Don Guanella's intervention. It was the 3rd Miracle that was needed to Canonize Don Guanella! And so our journey began! It started with his Canonization in Vatican Square on October 23, 2011 and ended in the Lake Como region. We learned all about the life of Don Guanella by visiting the many places that he lived and ministered to the sick.

2: OCTOBER 22, 2012 | After a LONG night of travel across the "Pond", we all met at Hotel Olympic, for what would be "home" for the next 3 nights. Father Peter & Monica got us acclimated to the hotel and our daily itinerary. There will be no rest for the weary on this trip! | The Yoder & Glisson Families will be at the forefront of our Pilgrimage through Italy!

3: The first stop of the trip was to San Giuseppe al Trifonale. This was one of the first schools founded by Don Luigi Guanella, in 1909, in Rome. It is located in the Triumphal District, just outside the Vatican Walls. | After the tour, Monica gathered the group and headed next door to attend Mass celebrated by Fr. Peter...the 1st of many!

4: This first mass of the journey was said at San Giuseppe dell'Opera Don Guanella. It is a dependent chapel of the parish and school. It belongs to the Congregation of the Servants of Charity, who provide this school for those with Down Syndrome. The group gave thanks for arriving in Rome safely. Bill Glisson Sr. and his wife, Donna, were particularly thankful for Louis Guanella's divine intervention in their son Bill Jr's. miraculous recovery.

5: After mass, as the group was exiting the church via the school yard. Monica stopped to show some exactly where we were in relation to the hotel. | Some stayed behind to enjoy basketball with the residents of the school. The Yoder's daughter, Emily, has Down Syndrome. Back in Springfield, PA, they are active members of the Don Guanella School. Noreen used to work at the school and was able to secure the relic of Don Guanella that helped the Glisson Family in their time of need. Emily was in her glory! She can play basketball, no doubt!

6: Even though we were all exhausted from jet lag, we were hungry! It was time for our first Italian meal at Ragno D'Oro!! Oh, we could all taste the wine already! | The family owned and operated restaurant was about a 5 block walk from the hotel.

7: Appetizer: Rigatoni in a red sauce w/ veal and prosciutto. Entrée: Chicken w/ green beans.

8: OCTOBER 23, 2012 | After a wonderful dinner and a good night sleep, most were not adjusted to the time change yet, so it seemed a little early to be eating again. But, our hotel included a full, Italian style breakfast. We had AMAZING coffee, pastries, meats and hard boiled eggs. They even had a variety of cereals to choose from along with yogurt and canned fruit. Monica kept reminding us that we needed to eat "quickly" so that we could get over to the Vatican Square early enough to get a good seat for the Canonization. She handed out our tickets during the meal and told us "not to lose them"! Everyone felt this was really the true beginning of our trip.

9: When in Italy, do as the Italian's do....EAT!! And, then you.... ANDEAMOS!! At least when you're with Monica you do!

10: The Morning of the Canonization: As we all gathered in the lobby to meet our tour guide, Monica, and start our procession to Vatican Square, we were met by several reporters that wanted to interview Father Peter and meet Bill, Jr. Many have never met a living recipient of a miracle! It was just the beginning of what would prove to be an amazing day! Top Left: Father Peter & Reporter Bottom L & R: Billy being interviewed by local reporters Bottom Middle: Our wonderful guide, Monica

11: Our Group began its procession to the Vatican waving a USA flag and handmade banner.Father Peter led the way! What a sight!

12: Monica knew if we didn't get to the Vatican early we wouldn't get a seat. Thank God for Monica!

13: Within an hour of getting settled into our seats, the entire Vatican Square was packed with people. The energy was something that is indescribable. Everyone was wonderful, friendly and genuinely excited as we waited for the services to begin.

14: As the "Big Event" was getting ready to start, Donna, Noreen and Bill, Jr. were preparing to leave the group and head to the alter area. They were an integral part of the ceremony. Billy was going to be presenting the relic that is believed to be the catalyst for Billy's miracle. Noreen and Donna would also be receiving communion from the Pope! The Yoder and Glisson families will always be tied together because of this amazing miracle!

15: This day was not only special due to our group's connection to the ceremony, but because we witnessed & participated in a historical event. Louis Guanella was one of three being canonized that day. Even though we were in Rome, flags and banners were being waved from all over the world. It was a vivid testament of a faith that runs deep, far and wide throughout the world as we celebrated the lives of these three amazing figureheads about to be canonized! | Guido Maria Conforti, Italy Founder of Xavaiern Missonary | Don Luigi Guanella, Italy Servants of Charity | Bonifacia Rodriguez de Castro, Spain Servants of St. Joseph

17: It does not get much better than this! Monica helped us find great seats. We practically had a front row seat for the procession of the Pope. We all waited patiently for the services that began around 11AM. Having arrived at the Vatican Square around 8:30AM, the 2.5 hours of "people watching" had come to an end. We stood in awe as the Pope drove by, so near to us that we felt like we had the best seats ever! Soon after, Bill, Jr. and Father Peter delivered Louis Guanella's Relic to the Pope who then gave them his Papal Blessing. Getting to this point took 10 years of hard work on behalf of Father Peter, Noreen and others. Witnessing this was surreal. To honor the diversity of the crowd, the ceremony was said in three different languages: Italian, Spanish and English. In talking with everyone in the group, each said the same thing, more or less, "We will never forget this day!"

18: With the choir singing and the Pope seated on his throne, we watched as Fr. Peter and Bill, Jr. bowed their heads in reverence as they delivered the blessed relic into the hands of the Pope...all eyes upon them!

19: Noreen Yoder, an affiliate of the Don Guanella School, In Springfield, PA, was the one who bought the Blessed relic of Don Guanella to Billy's hospital bedside and helped to begin the prayer chain within the Guanella community on behalf of the Glisson Family. Both Donna Glisson, Bill's Mother, and Noreen Yoder had the distinct pleasure of receiving Holy Communion from Pope Benedict XVI. What an amazing experience!

20: Unfortunately our happy day was interrupted by a man who somehow was able to climb onto the ledge just above us, waiving a bible and a lighter. He threatened to jump if he was to be forcedly removed from the ledge. As he lit the bible on fire, security began evacuating our section. We were all very frustrated that this disturbed man was not subdued sooner. While we do not wish to bring attention to the infamous, it was in fact, a real aspect of our day. The good news is that he did not diminish the solemnity of the Canonization festivities! | Bob Yoder and "Photo Joe" did record the disruption.

21: Our group ended the Canonization portion of our trip with a group photo in Vatican Square. Monica told us we were on our own for lunch. Pizza, here we come! We met back at the hotel at 2PM for a bus and walking tour of Rome's highlights. Oh, what a beautiful day!

22: Cristina, our walking tour guide for the next 2 days, met us at our hotel after lunch. Our first stop was the Trevi Fountain. It took 30 years to build...1732-1762 The fountain is 85 feet high and 65 feet wide. It is located at the junction of three roads, giving it the "Tre Vie" name. It's the largest Baroque fountain in Rome. The fountain was a former aqueduct that supplied water to ancient Rome. A traditional legend holds that if you throw a coin into the fountain you are ensured a return to Rome! Looks like we had a few coin tossers in the Yoder Family! It was truly an amazing, but crowded site!

24: Our 2nd stop was the Pantheon. It's one of the best preserved buildings in Rome, built in 126 AD. It's known for hosting the largest circular, open, concrete dome, which is 142 ft. across. The church is informally known as Santa Maria Della Rotonda, hence the Piazza's name.

25: It has the largest brick dome in the history of architecture. Inside, in the back part of the dome is the center alter. When you leave, you can't help but notice how large columns are as you look out into the Piazza

26: In route to Piazza Navona, we encountered so many old buildings, food carts, people and street performers. This silver group, in particular, caught our attention. They would sit perfectly still, until you tossed a coin in their hat. Then they would all start to laugh and then suddenly stop and revert back to their still pose. Hilarious!!

27: The last stop of our walking tour was Piazza Navona. It was built in the first century as an open space stadium for games & competitions. It is representative of the great Baroque Roman architecture, with its 3 famous fountains. Over the years,it has evolved into an open market where many vendors sell their remarkable artwork! | In the center is Fontana dei Quattro (1651): Fountain of Four Rivers by Bernini & topped with the obelisk of Domitian. | On the Northern end is the Fountain of Neptune (1878) by Antonia Della Bitta. It was added to balance out the piazza.(no photo of Fontana del Moro, at South end). | Art anyone? Or were we all too busy enjoying our gelatos?

28: After leaving Piazza Navona, full of our gelato, we headed to the other side of Rome via our comfy motor coach! Our next stop was a visit to San Pietro in Vincoli (St. Peter in Chains) Church (432-440 AD). | Above: This church is known for housing the statue of Moses by Michelangelo & is part of the tomb of Pope Julius II. | This is the relic of the chains that bound St. Peter while imprisioned in Jerusalem. They were gifted to Pope Leo I and are housed in a reliquary under the main basilica alter. | The background page is a Fresco from the ceiling of the church.

29: Just before sunset we arrived at the Colosseum...the largest elliptical amphitheater ever built during the Roman Empire. It is considered one of the greatest works in architecture. It consists of 5 outer rings and 80 arches per level. The Colosseum is believed to built on the circular remains of an old lake. Just outside the Colosseum area is the Arch of Constantine (seen right), which was erected in 315 AD. This top portion is know as the attic. On Good Fridays, the Pope leads a torch lit procession, "Way of the Cross".

30: It had been a LONG day. Up early and on our feet most of the day! It was time for a great meal, wine and bonding with the new friends we had made. Dinner could not have come at a more perfect time. Monica had reserved the back room of this wonderful restaurant!!

31: Meet the East Providence, Rhode Island Gang..... | ...from Sacred Heart Parish, where Father Peter is their Pastor Extraordinarie!

32: Meet the families from Philadelphia, PA..... where Don Guanella's intervention took place.

34: Our final full day in Rome started with a tour of the official cemetery of Rome, the Catacombs of St. Callixtus, a complex that occupies 90 acres. They are among the greatest and most important of Rome, originating in the middle of the 2nd Century. The actual Catacombs are 20 Meters deep, with a network of galleries housed in 4 levels. Buried inside crypts, are thousands of martyrs, 16 Popes and many Christians. It is estimated that 5000 people are buried in the Catacombs. Only 2% of the tombs have been excavated and open to the public. The grounds are full of Cypress Trees, symbolizing the "Resurrection".

35: Father Peter celebrated Mass for us inside one of the crypts. Being so far below ground and praying amongst the buried spirits was both eerie and fascinating, all at the same time!

36: After the Catacombs, we me up with our guide, Christina. First,we visited the Scala Scanta (Holy Steps) that were brought to Rome in the 4th century by St. Helena. According to records, Jesus ascended these stairs on his way to a trail w/Pontius Pilot, in Jerusalem. There are 28 wooden steps encased in marble, found in part of the old Lateran Palace, opposite the Basilica. They are located next to a church which was built on ground that came from Mt. Calvary. You can only ascend the actual steps on your knees or walk up a separate, duplicated set.

37: After climbing the steps, this beautiful church awaits... marbled alters and sculptures that defy description!

39: St. John's Lateran Basilica is across from Scala Sancta. It's the official ecclesiastical seat for the Bishop of Rome. An inscription on the facade reads "Christo Salvatori", "Christ the Savior". It is the first of four Papal Basilicas and encompasses large carved marble statues of each of the Prophets. This is the former old Vatican, so it is one of the most important churches in Rome. The frescoes on the ceilings and the tile on the floors are absolutely amazing! Pictures just don't do them justice! Each entrance door is a work of art. If you look close, you can see baby Jesus' foot in gold, hence the "healing" foot. Touch it and say a prayer for someone in need.

40: Matthew, the tax collector. | Peter, with his keys | Thomas

41: Calling all Biblical Saints & Prophets! They can be seen everywhere throughout this Basilica. Some are looking down, protecting us, from the top of the Basilica. Each Saint was sculpted by a different artist and stands about 7m in height. The Nave of the church has 5 aisles. The main aisle displays the Apostles and Evangelists from the Old & New Testaments. They date back to the 17th Century, and were placed in the Nave during Pope Clement XI's reign. | Philip

42: The High Alter depicts a Gothic Baldachino. It has a relic chamber at the top. Inside is believed to be part of the heads of Sts. Peter and Paul, preserved according to tradition. They may have been removed during the French occupation of Rome, in the late 18th Century. There are also two statues of Saints above each corner of the four columns. A fresco encircles the Baldachino, with four scenes from the New Testament and an additional Marian scene, painted by Barna di Siena. The scenes depicted are The Annunciation, The Nativity, The Crucifixion and The Coronation of the Blessed Virgin. The pictures DO NOT do this Basilica justice. It is truly an AMAZING work of art. Trying to capture Christina on video, as she talked about the Alter, was a challenge! She had to whisper as she talked. We all listened intently as we gazed about, in awe of this marvelous site.

44: We gathered on the corner, between the Holy Steps and Lateran Palace to get a head count and proceed to St. Paul's Church...our last stop before lunch! The orange building is the Palace, now occupied by the Museo Storico Vaticano. which illustrates the history of the Papal States. The Lateran Palaces also house the offices of the Vicariate of Rome, as well as the residential apartment of the Cardinal Vicar, the Pope's delegate for the daily administration of the Diocese of Rome.

45: Every Bascilica is a work of art! The courtyard and entrance to "St. Paul Outside The Walls" is so lush, green and full of architectural details. The doric style columns completely envelop the building. From every direction, you can see St. Paul's Statue. This Basilica is also one of Rome's four, ancient Papal Basilicas. At this point the only major one we missed was St. Mary Major.

47: We had about 20 minutes to wander around the 4-sided portico before the guided tour began inside. Even the frescoes on the exterior facade are awe inspiring. This one depicts four prophets--Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, and Daniel. The door with the cross is known as the "Pauline Door", dedicated to the Apostle of the Gentiles. All pilgrims pass through this door into the Basilica in order to reach the tomb of St.Paul.

48: The long walk though the Nave is INDESCRIBABLE, lined on each side with 20 granite columns. Both in the aisles and in the central nave, are medallions depicting all the Popes, from Saint Peter to Pope Benedict XVI. Begun in 1847, each portrait is distinct, and together they form a powerful reminder of the unbroken tradition of faith, reaching back to the apostles.

49: In the Apse of the Basilica is a beautiful mosaic work of art, completed by the Venetians. It depicts 4 of the Apostles: Peter, Paul, Andrew and Luke...flanking Christ.

50: The ceilings, in the second largest Basilica in Rome, are absolutely stunning. Words and photographs just can not do them justice. Between the inlaid coiffured ceilings, the medallions, the scenes depicted (such as the last supper) and the amazing stained glass windows, you find you need a neck massage from looking up for such long periods of time. Breathtaking...truly breathtaking!

51: St. Paul was a martyr who was beheaded between 65-67 A.D. His remains were buried 2 miles from the site of his beheading. Constantine built the Basilica over his burial site. Paul's remains, excluding the head, were moved into a sarcophagus. (According to church tradition the head rests at the Lateran.) Paul's tomb is below a marble tombstone in the Basilica's crypt, at 1.37metres (4.5 ft) below the altar. The tombstone bears the Latin inscription PAULO APOSTOLO MART ("to Paul the apostle and martyr").

52: As we exited the Basilica, you could see some of the original ruins. In July 1823, workers carelessly started a fire on the roof. It burned overnight. Parts were moved, restored, demolished, and reconstructed. Gifts arrived from all over the world. For example, blocks of malachite and lapis lazuli were donated by Tsar Nicholas I. King Fouad I of Egypt gave columns and windows of very fine alabaster as a gift. This became the Church's most important construction site of the 19th century. | Pope Leo XII made it his mission to rebuild the Basilica in an identical way by reusing all salvageable materials.

53: As we waited for our group to congregate before our final stop before lunch, we had some time to wander and shop with the street vendors. The Polizia were VERY present because this is an area of Rome known for pick-pocketing and beggars. We quickly learned they were shameless and adept at pulling off some very "un- christian" scams!

54: The Group was STARVING! We enjoyed a hearty, Italian lunch at a Ristorante Pizzarie called, Venerina. The food was fantastic, but, alas, NOT Pizza!! We had the rest of the afternoon and evening free. Many were looking forward to doing some shopping and finding that illusive PIZZA!

56: Antonio, our bus driver, loaded our luggage and we departed Rome around 7am. The sun was rising as we made our way to the Tuscan region of Perugia, Italy. We would be stopping in Assisi for the day to tour the town!

57: We were looking at about a 3-4 hour bus ride from Rome to Assisi. Antonio was kind enough to let us stop for a quick restroom break and some "pallet pleaser's". The bathrooms lacked toilet seats, but they had car wash stations! (I think the ladies would have preferred toilet seats.) The cappuccinos made up for it!!

58: We had to park at the base of Assisi, because buses won't fit down the narrow streets. Some took a quick minute to enjoy the playground before we climbed the escalator and made our way into the town.

59: The gateway is one of only 3 entrances into Assisi. It would not disappoint. Monica led us around the corner of this Basilica's archway to meet our guide and begin the tour. Assisi is known for its 3 major churches and several other minor ones. The fact that it's nearly 1,000 inhabitants are mostly Franciscan Monks, Priests and Nuns is very interesting. Hence,you can easily tell who the tourists are...hmmm!

60: As Father Peter and Monica compared notes, the group took advantage of these AMAZING Tuscan views of the countryside.

62: Let the tour begin with the Basilica of St. Claire. Our guide, Eduardo, told us the church is noted for its pink exterior and is one of the first churches you see when you enter Assisi. Construction began in 1257, so as to house her remains and honor her work. | St. Claire worked closely with St. Francis and is best known for founding the Order of Poor Ladies. Her feast day is celebrated on August 11th every year within the Church Community.

63: We did not really have time to tour inside the church, but if we did, this is what we most likely would have seen. (Wikipedia Photos!)

64: Within a short 5 minute walk, we arrived at The house of Pietro di Bernardone. It is believed to be the birthplace of St. Francis

65: Chiesa Nuova, the last church to be built in Assisi, was erected in 1615 on the site of the presumed birth place of St. Francis because the Spanish Vicar General of the Franciscans was saddened by the dilapidated condition of St. Francis' birthplace. Its Renaissance style depicts a high dome divided into coffers and is shaped in the form of a Greek cross. The high alter is set over the room of St. Francis' birth.

66: The marble walls and hand-painted frescoes are a sight to see. You can leave a coin and make a wish as you light a vigil candle

67: This is believed to be the stairwell where St. Francis was imprisoned by his father. This is the place where St. Francis decided to answer the divine call and renunciate worldly goods. The carved wooden door and stained glass depict these things. As you continue down the stairs, you enter the room of St. Francis.

68: Wonderful Windows.....

69: And Doors Galore..... | As we walked through Assisi, every home was impeccably maintained. Doors and windows are works of their finest artisians! The stonework and the flower boxes are perfect combinations of old and new, all working well together!

70: In route to the Basilica of St. Francis, we made a quick stop in the middle of town. In the Piazza del Comune, is the church known as Santa Maria Sopra Minerva. It is known for its Minervan, Roman Temple facade. Dedicated to Mary, it was built in the 1st Century B.C.

71: We had about a 15 minute walk through the hilly streets of Assisi in route to the Basilica of St. Francis of Assisi. | "Watching your step" was a huge CHALLENGE because the views were just breathtaking!!

72: And then......there it was, off in the distance. The culmination of our trip to Assisi....the Basilica of St. Francis. The site of it was just unbelievable, set against the countryside. The building is composed of 2 churches, one above the other. The upper and lowers churches are representative of the Gothic period of architecture. The interior is composed of one nave and transept. It contains extraordinary allegorical frescoes, such as: "Madonna w/ Angels & St. Francis", "Five Saints", "Episodes of Life & Passion of Christ", "Madonna and Saints" and "Stigmata of St. Francis". The crypt, downstairs, contains the remains of St. Francis. | Notice the lawn. The trees spell "PAX", Latin for Peace. The olive tree symbolizes life!

73: The Basilica is one of Italy's foremost monuments. It was built between 1228 and 1253 A.D. The short period of construction for a church of this size is testament to the great love the people had for St. Francis. Many of the original disciples were baptized here...also, St. Clare!

74: The works of art and the architecture of this church are amazing. The town was actually preparing for a visit from the Pope in a few days! The workers were in the process of building the scaffolding and securing the area, outside the lower side of the Basilica. Thankfully we had already seen the Pope in a much more unique way.

75: After touring the Basilica, we broke for lunch before returning to the church for Mass, celebrated by Fr. Peter.

76: After leaving Assisi, we headed for Florence, where we would stay at Hotel Galileo for one night. We arrived at dusk. We had about two hours before dinner. Photo Joe, at the urging of his wife and daughter, hit the flea market area, which was starting to close up for the night. The SHOPPING in Florence is to die for and the market was 2 blocks from our hotel. Dinner was just on the other side of the market, at Antico Mercado Pizzeria, but we still didn't have pizza for dinner!!

77: The bargains to be had at the open market are phenomenal. Colorful pashmina scarves were 3/15euro. Large, real leather handbags could be found for 50euro. The handmade, glass beaded jewelery is one of a kind. And, the belts, ties, spices, coats...the vendors all want to bargain with you...just amazing!!!

78: Our time in Florence was very limited. Between the rain and the time crunch, we would only be able to see the Accademia Museum and the VERY famous Duomo. These photos seen on the right are what Florence looks like from a distance. They are courtesy of Photo Joe's trip with his family, from the year before. Luckily he had a chance to shoot the city from high up on a hill, across the Arno river. You can see the Ponte Vecchio bridge. It's the oldest bridge in Florence and survived the Germans in WWII. Of course, you can't miss the Duomo in town or from afar....either way, it's a fantastic site.

80: The unassuming appearance of the Accedemia Della A'rte is home to some of the most prized Italian art. Built in 1563, it offers a school for artists to attend, aside from tourist viewing the museum. It's probably more famously known for housing the Statue of DAVID, sculpted by Michelangelo. We were not allowed to take photographs inside. This photo is courtesy of Wikipedia. The sculpture, crafted between 1501-1504, stands 17ft. tall. It used to be in the public square, outside the Palazzo della Signoria. It soon came to symbolize the defense of civil liberties embodied in the Florentine Republic, an independent city-state threatened on all sides by more powerful rival states and by the hegemony of the Medici family. The eyes of David, with a warning glare, were turned towards Rome. A replica now stands in the Palazzo. Can you tell the difference?

82: The Basilica di Santa Maria del Fiore, is Florence's main Cathedral and the 4th largest in the world. Construction began in 1296 and was completed over time by 1436. It is famous for its pink & green marble exterior, the dome, the baptistery, bell tower, golden doors and its 3 buildings. | Its dome was the first 'octagonal' dome in history to be built without a temporary wooden supporting frame. You can climb 463 steps to the top! | The Gothic interior appears empty. Artifacts have been lost over time or moved to the museum. | The clock was designed in 1443 by Paolo Uccello in accordance with the ora italica, where the 24th hour of the day ended at sunset. | This imposing cross sits at the end of the Nave, directly below the main dome of the cathedral.

83: A short walk up the street brings us through one of the main fortress arches into Palazzo Vecchio. It is the town hall of the city and the focal point of the origin and history of the Florentine Republic. Inside the Piazza is the large fortress-palace. It is one of the most significant sites in Italy.

84: The palazzo boasts many cultural status and museums. This is the place where the original David once stood. A replica now stands in its place. There are differences, but they are hard to find by the average person. Carriage ride tours are a popular way to see the area.

85: Our walking tour with Marco, ended here. He pointed out many of the statues and sculptures in the palazzo. Two of the most famous being the The equestrian statue of Cosimo I de Medici and Perseus holding the head of Medusa. | We were on our own for lunch. It was one of our last chances to eat good pizza, so that was a must!

86: When we left Florence, it was still a bit rainy. Our long drive up to Lake Como took about 4 hours and, unfortunately, most of the mountain scenery was obscured by clouds. We arrived in Como around 5pm. Upon our arrival, we were able to take a few shots of the lake from up above. Our hotel for the next 2 nights would be the Hotel Park Mueble in Lake Como. We dropped off our luggage and hustled back to the lobby to make our way over to the Shrine of the Sacred Heart, where Father Peter celebrated Mass for our group.

87: When the bus pulled into the lot, the "paparazzi" were waiting for Bill Jr., hoping to interview him. Father Peter had to do most of the translation. | Bill, Jr. was very good about making time for those who wanted to meet him and have photographs taken with him, even tho he wasn't feeling well.

89: Attached to the Church is a Museum depicting the many facets of Don Guanella's life. | In March, 1908, a group of disciples professed their vows at this shrine and started the Servants of Charity. | The artifacts are remarkable. Left: the shoes Louis wore as he walked the mountains

90: Father Peter celebrated Mass for our group and the many people who waited for our arrival. It was a packed house. Everyone wanted pictures...with Bill, Jr. and of Bill Jr.

91: Because Louis Guanella began his life as a priest here, the Shrine of the Sacred Heart has also become his final resting place. His remains have been well preserved in a hermetically sealed, clear glass coffin. It is not normally in front of the alter, but due to many visiting the region during this historic time, he was moved for those who wished to venerate this newly Canonized Saint. It was a surreal experience to watch Bill Jr. pay homage to the man that healed him!

92: The Pastor, the Sisters, and many Parishioners of The Shrine of the Sacred Heart were very excited to meet the Yoder and Glisson families.

95: Restaurants in Como were few in the area near our hotel. The Locanda happily agreed to accommodate us for dinner on both nights. Our group took up almost the entire restaurant! Fr. Peter celebrated his birthday, so we presented him with a cake. Emily was so excited to watch him blow out his candles and cut the cake. It was one of many fun nights!

96: We left the hotel very early for the 2 hour drive up into the mountainous area outside of Como where Louis Guanella was born, spent his childhood and received his calling to serve God. | Thursday, October 27, 2011

97: Does it get much better then this? The views at the top of Gualdera are spectacular. You truly feel like you can almost touch heaven. Gualdera is where Louis' grandparents lived. He and his siblings spent a lot of time here as children. The roads were so narrow that we had to transfer from our big bus to minivans and caravan up to this awesome location.

100: Father Peter said mass for us in the small chapel on the grounds. The church was small and quaint. Outside, below, is a sculpture depicting Louis' vision of Mary telling him his calling was to help the poor.

101: The chapel is attached to the main building. After mass we had lunch in the cafeteria. Lunch was very simple. Cold cuts to make sandwiches and fruit!! It was the first time we'd had REAL fruit at a meal and we were more than half way through our trip.

102: St. Rocco Church was our next stop. It is in the town of Fracisio. This was the church that Louis attended as a boy. According to the Pastor, it is being renamed St. Luigi Guanella Church. They have received approval from the Bishop! The baptistery is original, but is not where Louis was baptized | We all agreed it was so neat to be part of such a moment in history!

103: This church was absolutely breathtaking. The frescoes and paintings looked so crisp and clear. The ceiling was full of stories about the life of Louis Guanella as well as with biblical stories, such as the Last Supper.

104: Before we left St. Rocco, Father Peter let everyone kiss what is considered to be a relic of Louis Guanella. It is considered a Class I relic because it is an actual bone fragment that came from his deceased body. It is preserved behind a few layers of glass.

105: 14 Children attend the school, grades 1-8. They all wanted to meet Bill Jr. along with others who live in the town!

106: Louis was one of 13 children. He is seen here in this sculpture outside his home, with his siblings and parents. The sculpture is well maintained and leads you right into the seeing the house. It's amazing that 15 people lived in this house!

109: The house was very primitive and all of the interior rooms were build with knotty pine wood. Most of the artifacts seen in the house are original, including the beds! The black and white sketch is of Louis' parents.

110: The Yellow & Gold ribbons were everywhere through out the region. From Louis' homestead, we made our way through the town of Campodolcino to St. John the Baptist Church. It is here that Louis received most of his sacraments as a young boy. The exterior of the church was full of flowers and a few sculptures of scenes that depicts Louis Guanella's life. The bell tower on this building is an amazing site!

112: In EVERY church, they knew Father Peter. It was amazing. We didn't stay long, but we were informed this is where Louis received all of his major sacraments as a young child.

113: Our final stop, of our last day, would be to another Opera Don Guanella. This is currently an active school and skilled nursing facility for the mentally challenged and elderly who are sick. Louis Guanella founded this school.

115: The church was full of frescoes that tell the story of Louis' life, how he received a calling on the mountain in Gualdera and how he served the poor even as a child. This was a perfect church with which to end our tour. It helped to tie everything together with regards to his life story and journey leading up to his canonization.

116: We walked the grounds for a bit while Father Peter went to find some fellow seminarians, who work at this active school and facility. If Father Peter were still living in Italy, it is very likely that he would be working in a place such as Nouva Olonio San Salvatore. The grounds are just gorgeous! You could tell fall was fast approaching, sadly as our trip was ending.

117: This is one of the most AMAZING sculptures. It shows Louis Guanella serving both children and adults, particularly those with Down Syndrome and other mental disabilities.

119: Walking the grounds was breathtaking. The views were spectacular. We were able to get a final group photo at the main sculpture, in the garden area. Father Peter was able also reconnect with some of the Priests who run the facility. They were in the seminary together and you could tell how excited they were to have us touring their campus. They asked for opportunity to have a photo with Billy and his wife Kaye.

120: Our last evening was spent eating and saying our good-byes after dinner, at the hotel. On the coffee table in the hotel lobby was a newspaper. Bill's story was on the front cover! It was no surprise considering he was a local legend. | Sheila also took this time with Father Peter to check her facts so they would be as accurate as possible for this journal book and DVD that she and Photo Joe agreed to create. Father Peter is a wealth of knowledge and we were lucky to have him help plan and guide us through this amazing country.

121: Antonio had the task of getting everyone on the bus at a very early hour, to head to Milan, so that both groups could get their flights home to Boston and Philadelphia. Because we arrived into Como at dusk, on our first night, and got back late from the mountains on our the second night, the group never really had the opportunity to tour around the beautiful Lake Como. We only saw it from the distance, on the bus, in the rain. Photo Joe, Merikay and Sheila stayed behind for a couple of extra days, so they added in a few shots to what the lake looked like in the daytime. | October 28, 2011

122: During the vacation season it is not uncommon to rent a boat and tour the lake that way. | Because we were there in the off season, we hired someone to drive us through Como and show us the sights.

123: Lake Como is a lake of glacial origin in Lombardy region of Italy. It has an area of 146 km, making it the third largest lake in Italy. It is also one of the deepest lake in Italy, at 1,320 ft. deep. One of the most well known areas on the lake, is Bellagio. It is home to the famous hotel, after which the Bellagio in Las Vegas is named and replicated. Bellagio is in the middle of the two main fingers of the lake. The area is also home to many American based movie stars. George Clooney purchased a home on the lake, to get away from all the paparazzi, but they still seem to know when he is in town. His home is in the town of Laglio. You can view the town from the opposite side of the lake, as seen here, on the opposite page, in the upper right corner.

124: Our Favorite Memories | "Our Trip was a celebration of many things. We came to honor St. Louis Guanella, and to see Italy again. Also we celebrated our 25th anniversary and our 50th birthdays all rolled into one. We met some wonderful people both from RI and PA. We will cherish our pilgrimage forever. Many thanks to Father Peter." John and Barbara Thomson-- | "The highlights of this memorable pilgrimage were to be present at the canonization of St. Louis Guanella and to visit places which were important in his life. Visiting these landmarks added special meaning to the things I had previously read about him. The scenery was breathtaking!" Sharon Chalmers--

125: Carl and JoAnne LaPietra-- "Our favorite memory is feeling so fortunate that our guide, Monica, was able to get us so close to the Pope for the canonization ceremony of St. Louis Guanella at the Vatican! Monica took this photo of us so we could remember this day forever." | "The best time ever and the best friends ever!!" Mary DeMedeiros--

126: "Bill and I loved the visit to Saint Guanella's home town. We loved meeting the people there... it was beautiful and exciting. Also, Bill carrying the relic at the canonization was also a beautiful memory." (pg. 18) Bill Jr. Glisson & Kaye Glisson-- | Gary Bennett said: "One of my favorite memories was when were on top of the mountain and we decided to walk down part of the way instead of taking the shuttle bus. It was just us and Italy; it was awesome." Greg Bennett said: "One word.....legendary."

127: Carol & Bob Yoder-- "After we had received Holy Communion from Pope Benedict XVI, I paused for one moment. I looked out at a sea people who came to celebrate the canonization of Saint Louis Guanella. My faith was restored that people still believe". | Noreen Yoder-- "The canonization of Saint Louis Guanella, was a dream come true. I have witnessed miracle after miracle in my lifetime through my prayers and constant faith in Saint Louis Guanella. The greatest blessing was that my family Robert Yoder, Carol Yoder, Bob, Emily, Noah and Abe were with me to experience this amazing event".

128: Photo Joe, Merikay & Sheila Dragon-- "This trip holds many special memories. Helping to document it for all was a real treat, too, because we learned that much more. Being together as a family to witness such a sacred event is something none of us will forget. Thank you, Louis Guanella".

129: A Special Thanks goes out to the following people: Joe Dragon: For his expert camera photographs Sheila Dragon: For her camera and video footage and effort to put this book and DVD together Father Peter: For his countless hours of time to help make this trip possible Monica Forieri: For her wonderful help in guiding us around Italy

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  • By: Sheila D.
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  • Title: Pilgrimage to Italy
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