Around the ArchdioceseSunday Assembly

St. Isidore Cluster group reflects on visit to cathedral

Pilgrims also stop at Trappist abbeys

By Barbara Ann Brumm
Special to The Witness

How can we say that we love God, if we do not know Him? How can we say that we love our neighbors, if we do not know them?

In the early darkness of the morning in late April, 34 Parishioners from St. Isidore Catholic Cluster, boarded a bus to begin their journey to Dubuque; some for adventure, some for an indulgence, and some for renewal. The first stop on our journey was New Melleray Abbey in rural Peosta, the home of the Cistercian order of Trappist monks, who follow the rule of St. Benedict. As we drove through the tree covered path to the entrance of the monastery, we could feel the presence of the peace of God. The large oak doors to the monastery church welcomed us to enter and kneel in silence as the monks assembled for, “Terce” — mid-morning chanted prayer. After the Monks left the chapel, we prayed Pope Francis’ Prayer for the Jubilee Year of Mercy. Father Jonas visited with us while we browsed in the gift shop and viewed a display of the Trappist Caskets.


As the rain began to fall, we were off to Our Lady of the Mississippi, the home of the community of Trappistine Sisters, Cistercians of Strict Observance, who also follow the rule of St. Benedict. We were graciously welcomed by Sister Christine into their visitor’s center for a power point presentation about the history of their community. As noon approached, we were invited to enter the visitor’s chapel for noon prayer. “Sext” chanted prayers were offered by the sisters from their cloistered chapel which was not in our view.   Before leaving the abbey chapel we again humbly recited the Jubilee Year of Mercy prayer.   Oh Yes, we made a definite stop at the gift and candy shop for an ample supply of the sisters’ caramels and chocolates.

The rain began to pour as we were off to enjoy a delicious lunch at Pizza Ranch and a time for visiting, laughing, sharing stories, and growing as a community.

Filled with nourishment and plenty of dessert pizza, we then ventured on to visit and tour St. Raphael’s Cathedral, the “Mother Church” for the archdiocese; a place of pilgrimage, a patronage for sacred art, a “Mortuary Chapel” within, containing the bodies of seven bishops/archbishops and a sanctuary for the presence of the Eucharist. To fulfill part of an indulgence offered during this pilgrimage, we walked through the Door of Mercy and we prayed for the intentions of Pope Francis in front of the Blessed Sacrament.

Leaving the Cathedral, we had a short bus trip to St. Joseph the Worker Church for Mass; the summit of our journey.   We celebrated the Mass as welcomed pilgrims and prayed with the four first communicants who received Jesus for the first time.   We found ourselves united in the Eucharist and renewed in the Spirit.   As we boarded the bus in front of St. Joseph the Worker Church, the parishioners bid us farewell and welcomed us to return again.

St. Paul tells us in 1 Corinthians, that we are the body of Christ. We are all given certain gifts to share with one another for the benefit of all. Our Pilgrimage to Dubuque offered those from our parish community an opportunity for a better understanding of the monastic gifts of spirituality, providing a glimpse into the gift of simplicity and beauty of the world of the monks and the sisters living in the Archdiocese of Dubuque; an opportunity to pray together, to walk the journey of faith, not alone, but in community; to be the body of Christ to each other; to realize and experience the gift that we bring to each other.” TODAY, we met Jesus, in the Eucharist and in one another.”

Below are the thoughts and reflections of many of those who participated in this pilgrimage to Dubuque:

“The walls of the monastery seemed to embrace us with its holiness. I think I could spend a day of solitude on the grounds of the abbey; so inviting and beautiful.”

“My seat partner, Cindy, who is a member of the group from Visitation, was wonderful to visit with.”

“I gained a curiosity of monastic life and renewed assurance that I am called to married life. I will pray for those living the cloistered life that they continue to pray for the world. Something I had never considered before; also, I loved the fact that the priest at Mass had first communicants stand at the altar with him during Liturgy of the Eucharist.”

“I was inspired by the loving, kind spirit of my traveling companions.”

“I enjoyed all of our visits today. The Lord’s Prayer sung by all at St. Joseph the Worker was moving and beautiful.”

“It was interesting to see how people can dedicate their lives to Christ and be at peace with God and themselves.”

“Ann Meirick O’Brien, our tour guide at the Cathedral of St. Raphael, was very friendly. (I had the) pleasure of seeing the Cathedral for the first time, (and received a) free history book of the Archdiocese.”

“Always enjoy a trip that informs us of things both prayerful and new to some. Enjoyed seeing the Monastery and seeing the caskets available. The Sisters and their abbey was such I’d never seen and (was) not aware of how they support themselves.”

“This was my first trip to Dubuque. Very beautiful and peaceful. Would love to take part in a retreat here someday!”

“Beautiful tabernacle at the abbey. The St. Raphael mortuary room was fascinating as were the relics.”

“Since I’ve never been to an abbey, this was very interesting. (I) always wanted to see the caskets and the caramels were so good.”

“I am in awe of the men and women who have devoted their lives to prayer and contemplation on their journey to Heaven. Their lives are so different from my hurry scurry! It makes me think about maybe re-evaluating my life.”

“I liked that the sisters at Our Lady of Mississippi called themselves by their first names and were so casual and kind … Enjoyed hearing and watching the monks chant …”

“I really enjoyed visiting the abbey and learning of the life of the monks and sisters. Really made me think of their beautiful and simplistic life compared to the ‘busyness’ that fills my day. Very inspiring. Very powerful and prayerful experience to visit the “Mother Church,” the Cathedral. The historical significance as well as seeing the “Door of Mercy” was very meaningful.”

“There are rock piles mounded along the roadside as our bus takes us to Du­buque. I wonder… In the past, were some of these rocks used for building churches? Christ, the cornerstone of our Church, chose Peter, which means rock, as the first pope. The “stones” standing with Peter were apostles. The archbishop, in line after the apostles, heads our archdiocese. We, the people of God, ride in a bus on the way to his cathedral. We “building blocks” cement friendships as we rub against one another, making each other smooth and shiny. We establish faith bonds.”

“I am grateful for the bus trip and being able to listen and visit with other Christians; to connect with and discuss faith in our lives …”

“I really liked the New Melleray Abbey, seeing the old stone building, the monks pray, and seeing the caskets. The women’s abbey was interesting seeing their video and their church and, of course, their prayer time. The Cathedral of St. Raphael is also an amazing place, very well constructed, beautiful, and interesting. The tour was also nice.”

“When we walked into the chapel of the New Melleray Abbey and sat in silence for about 15-20 minutes before the monks began to arrive for their chanting was the most profound time of my journey. I thought about how many prayers had been said there over the years (7 times per day). It felt like prayers permeated throughout the long narrow chapel with tall ceilings. It felt like prayers were embedded in the tall stone walls. I was very much at peace and felt like the Holy Spirit was flowing through me. It felt that no matter what I prayed for, God would answer my prayers. I couldn’t pray fast enough.

Brumm is the director of faith formation and adult faith formation for the St. Isidore Cluster, which is comprised of Sacred Heart Parish, Osage, and Visitation Parish, Stacyville.

A group of Catholics from the St. Isidore Cluster in Osage and Stacyville poses together on the altar at St. Raphael’s Cathedral in Dubuque during an April pilgrimage. (Contributed photo)