Cedar Rapids pilgrims follow in St. Paul’s footsteps

St. Jude Parish members travel to Greece, enrich faith

By Michelle Tressel

Special to The Witness

CEDAR RAPIDS — What began as a brainstorming idea in 2011 by former St. Jude pastoral associate Sister Linda Bechen has blossomed into a way for St. Jude parishioners, family and friends to worship together, to build community, to deepen their Christian faith, to absorb God’s magnificent creation and to have fun.  Yes, we are referring to the St. Jude sponsored pilgrimages, which have taken over 200 individuals to Italy, Germany, Austria, Switzerland, Ireland, the Holy Land, and, most recently, Greece and the Greek Isles.

The center of the trip to Greece was to walk in the footsteps of St. Paul, bringing life to the Epistles he wrote and visiting places described in the Acts of the Apostles. Diane Zinkula had always wanted to see Greece and was blessed to have the financial resources to do so. As preparations were made for the trip, many read books about St. Paul or studied the Acts of the Apostles. As Joan Jamason prepared for the trip, she wondered, “How would I be knocked off my horse?” and “How would I see Jesus in a way that could change my life and deepen my belief in the Lord?”

After months of preparation, the trip started with Mass at St. Jude Church at the early hour of 6:30 a.m. on Monday of the 28th week in ordinary time. The first reading, from St. Paul’s Letter to the Romans, began, “Paul, a slave of Christ Jesus, called to be an Apostle and set apart for the Gospel of God … .” This section of the reading grew in meaning during the 11-day pilgrimage.

Throughout the 11-day pilgrimage, the pilgrims gained a deeper and more vivid understanding of St. Paul’s writings, his life, and his relationship to the communities of Thessaloniki, Ephesus and Corinth. Father Mark Murphy kept everyone focused with prayers, Scripture and homilies. Becky Picard and Denny Waldron pointed out the readings at daily Mass tied in so well with Paul’s travels. The pilgrims walked on some of the same Roman roads as Paul did.  The experience made it hard to imagine that Paul traveled long distances to evangelize.

“We now are more aware of some of the hardships that St. Paul had to endure,” shared Stephanie and George Schulte.

Chris and Dan Peck said, “It was a very humbling experience to walk where St. Paul did.” They continued, “To see where he was imprisoned was holy ground.”

Barb and Randy Bunge realized and appreciated the difficulties Paul would have encountered in the communities he visited.  They learned the people of Ephesus protested Paul’s presence because he threatened their economy and way of life.

Lynne and Kevin Wymore treasure Paul’s bravery, strength, patience, love and devotion.

For Karen and Bob Morgan, “Paul’s message is timeless and applicable to us in 2019.”

Other aspects of the trip are also noteworthy.  Bob and Julie Heims celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary and received an anniversary blessing on land, sea and sky.

The beauty and variation of the landscape in Greece and Turkey were a surprise to many of the pilgrims. The mountains around the hanging monasteries and the blue Aegean and Mediterranean seas were breathtaking. This experience deepened the pilgrims love for the church and each other.

Nancy and Mike Glab noted the group started off not knowing each other very well but left the pilgrimage as friends.

This unique, life-changing pilgrimage deepened the understanding and love of Paul and the challenges he faced to spread Christianity throughout the world.

Larry and Susan Berns reflected, “Jesus chose well.  Thank you, St. Paul.  Thank you, Jesus.”

Tressel is pastoral associate at St. Jude Parish in Cedar Rapids.

 

The group of pilgrims from St. Jude Parish in Cedar Rapids pose together in the town of Ephesus. This was one of several places they saw in Greece connected to St. Paul’s travels in ancient times as he attempted to spread the Gospel. (Contributed photo)