Anchorage Archbishop Emeritus Roger Schwietz will lead a pilgrimage for young adults this fall to the eternal city of Rome. The Oct. 27 to Nov. 4 trip takes place over All Saints and All Souls days with a focus on saints who were foundational in the development of the Catholic Church.
There are many reasons why this kind of pilgrimage appeals to the age group often referred to as millennials, the archbishop said.
“Often, personal contact with saints means more to young adults than merely doctrine,” Archbishop Schwietz explained. “We hope to show some of the genuine heroes of our faith.”
At the Vatican, pilgrims will visit the burial site of Saint Peter, the first pope. A day trip to Assisi, the beautiful Umbrian hillside village where Saint Francis lived, will be a highlight of the journey. Archbishop Schwietz said he hopes the trip will bring into focus Saint Catherine of Siena, Saint Bridgid of Sweden, who died in Rome, and Saint Clare of Assisi, all women reformers of the church. The group will also attend an audience with Pope Francis.
When he proposed the idea to Anchorage Archbishop Paul Etienne, he said the archbishop “was very excited about it.” Archbishop Etienne hopes to meet the group in Rome and provide spiritual direction.
The trip is ideally suited to those in the 21-35 age group, said Matthew Beck, director of Youth and Young Adult Ministry for the archdiocese, who is accompanying and hosting the group.
But he added those a bit older who are still “young adults at heart” and younger post-high school adults would also be welcome.
Although the trip is still in the planning stages, Archbishop Schwietz said there will be Mass celebrated daily, and morning and evening prayer. Housing may be with a women’s religious community near the Vatican. Clergy and religious in the archdiocese, as well as those working in young adult ministry, are welcome to accompany the pilgrimage.
Beck said there’s something unique about a pilgrimage where a “community of faith” is formed with other pilgrims.
“You connect with the foundations of our Christian faith. You could do some of this alone, but doing it together is good Catholic ecclesiology – we journey together in faith,” he said.
Millennials are at a good place in life to make such a journey, Beck added. Many aren’t married yet and have the freedom and funds for travel. Many are young professionals making career choices and praying over these life decisions.
“It’s an ideal time to discern where the Lord might be calling them,” he said.
Archbishop Etienne has shown a great interest in young adult ministry, said Beck, and has been meeting with this age group at regional events across Southcentral Alaska.
“Young adults really want to be involved, and have a strong desire to be connected with the church,” he said. “They want to explore silent prayer, adoration and meditation. They’re interested in how to live our lives faithfully in a digital age.”
Archbishop Schwietz said the group will probably be limited to one bus, which would hold about 44 people. If all goes well, he said, this could be the first of several pilgrimages.