Bella Italia - a trip of a lifetime!

Published: Tuesday 24th January 2017

ACU staff, family and friends have just returned from a 16 day pilgrimage throughout Italy with the theme Art, Beauty and the Church. One participant, Susan Lafferty shares her experiences of the tour.

“Paola, where are we?” I called out to our guide as we passed my first ever working inland river port. We were heading to Ravenna, but where exactly were we right then?

Italy!” the busload of ACU pilgrims chorused in reply.

Ah, the best aspect of ACU’s pilgrimage with the theme Art, Beauty and the Church to Italy in November/December 2016 - my fellow pilgrims.  A great bunch of positive, ebullient, adventurers committed to steeping themselves in this exotic experience.

We travelled from Venice, through Padua, Ravenna, Florence and Assisi to Rome, visiting churches, museums, art galleries and historical buildings as well as other places of great beauty and art and natural wonder.

Photo of Venice's Grand Canal at sunset.

Venice's Grand Canal at sunset.

I fell in love with the spectacular mosaics in the sixth century Basilica of Sant'Apollinare Nuovo: after all this time they were still vibrant, still reflecting a thriving community. I particularly liked where the locals had later been expunged, but their arms still clung to columns in the streetscape.

In Assisi we visited St Francis’ tiny parish church (seating for six), housed inside Basilica Santa Maria del Angeli.  Utterly enchanting, completely humbling.  Br Jude Butcher and I took a walk in the woods outside the medieval upper town. Umbria’s autumn colour pallet was all to our advantage – and so intriguing that the woods are harvested now the same way they were by the Romans.

Fr Anthony Casamento conducted Mass for us on most mornings of our pilgrimage, including in the church of his namesake in Padua, Basilica of St Anthony, and the altar of the tomb of St Peter in the Vatican’s St Peter’s Basilica. It was moving for me, a non-Christian – it must have been momentous for Fr Anthony.

As someone raised as a Protestant, I learned a few things: Catholic and Protestant hymns are very different (Catholic hymns feel happier); the Catholic bible has more (and more interesting) books; and I can enjoy a spiritual comfort and replenishment by taking from a church service what works for me.

My biggest take-away though, was the realisation that if I take the time and look beyond myself, I can make new, real friends who will be good mates well beyond the pilgrimage. And there’s the added bonus that some of them are on my campus. I can see them anytime I want.

My suggestion to you, my ACU colleagues - get thee to an ACU Pilgrimage PRONTO.  You’ll love it!

Ciao, Susan

Susan Lafferty is the Associate Library Director (Resources and Access) based in North Sydney Mackillop Campus

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