For pilgrims, Italy’s female saints show faith’s history, beauty and depth

| Clare Kolars | August 2, 2016 | 0 Comments
Pilgrims on the “WINE & Shrine” in June toured Siena, Italy, including the Basilica of San Domenico, where the relics of St. Catherine of Siena are housed. Courtesy Kelly Wahlquist /Women In the New Evangelization

Pilgrims on the “WINE & Shrine” in June toured Siena, Italy, including the Basilica of San Domenico, where the relics of St. Catherine of Siena are housed. Courtesy Kelly Wahlquist /Women In the New Evangelization

Wine tasting, history lessons and Italy’s great female saints.

In June, 30 women, 12 from the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis, spent 10 days in and around Rome as part of a “WINE and Shrine” pilgrimage with Women In the New Evangelization, or WINE, a national women’s ministry.

Kelly Wahlquist, WINE founder and parishioner of Holy Name of Jesus in Medina, said visiting the shrines of St. Catherine of Siena and St. Clare of Assisi was a great gift the women received during the Year of Mercy. The lives of the female saints encouraged the women to live their faith, especially in today’s society, she said.

“We were able to see these saints, who fought similar battles in a culture against them, and they had the hope and faith to believe in the Lord,” Wahlquist said.

Mary Fox of St. Elizabeth Ann Seton in Hastings said the WINE pilgrimage included several “wow” moments, such as praying in front of the cross that spoke to St. Francis of Assisi and in front of Michelangelo’s Pieta housed in St. Peter’s Basilica.

“My husband died five years ago, and the image of the Pieta always spoke to me and helped me to understand the sorrow Mary felt when she held her son in her arms,” Fox said. “This was one reason I decided to go.”

In preparation for the trip, Fox read “Catherine of Siena” by Sigrid Undset.

“I was overwhelmed at how God used a ‘nobody’ to perform these miracles and teach the theology as she did,” Fox said. “I never knew a person like her existed.”

Fox said praying in the shrines of St. Catherine of Siena, St. Agnes and St. Clare of Assisi was an honor once she understood the gift they are to the Church.

“I feel like I’m best friends with these saints, and I want to introduce them to other women,” she said.

She added that the pilgrimage helped her to understand the beauty, depth and history of the Catholic faith as told by so many saints.

“To be surrounded by those stories was such a wow moment, and I was able to share it with my 19-year-old daughter,” she said.

Maddie Fox, one of Mary’s three children, said she heard her mom talking about the pilgrimage over spring break and didn’t want to miss out.

“Being the youngest by 20 years made my experience so much better,” Maddie said. “I was around inspiring women and listened to them share their stories.”

Maddie said her biggest surprise was hearing the women talk about how their faith strengthened in their hardships.

She added that seeing the head of St. Catherine of Siena was an awesome experience.

“You always think of faith as something you can’t touch or can’t see, but then you see something like that and realize it’s a real person,” Maddie said. “You never expected to see something so real when it had always been fiction before.”

The pilgrims prepared for the trip by praying and studying the lives of the saints they would visit.

Wahlquist said the trip was beyond successful because “of the hearts that were transformed, the lives that were changed and the relationships that were built and will continue to grow.”

The graces continue to flow as the women share with friends and family at home.

“We’ve already heard about women telling stories to other women and explaining how their life was changed,” Wahlquist said. “This will be a pilgrimage we want to continue every year.”

For more information about WINE, visit WomenInTheNewEvangelization.com.

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Category: Faith and Culture