Catholic ministries group plans pilgrimage to Italy

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

This May, 35 students from Catholic Campus Ministries will see the church from a bigger perspective. They are planning a pilgrimage to Italy.

"It's an incredible opportunity for students that are coming from a very small town to be exposed to a reality that is different from their reality," said the Rev. Patrick Nwokoye. He is organizing the trip for Southeast Missouri State University students.

Participants will celebrate Mass at St. Mark's Basilica in Venice, known for its Byzantine architecture, and visit the Basilica del Santo and Scrovegni Chapel in Padua. In Rome, they will attend the papal audience and see the catacombs, the Basilica of Santa Maria Maggiore and the Colosseum. They will celebrate Mass in one of the crypt chapels of St. Peter's Basilica in Vatican City, and will also tour the towns of Assisi and San Giovanni.

"Walking in the footsteps of saints will be a great experience," said campus minister Kristen Rainey.

The cost per student is about $2,500. Students are holding a fundraiser concert Friday titled "The Joy of Christmas." Students will perform holiday and religious tunes from 7 to 8 p.m. at Old St. Vincents Church, 131 S. Main St. in Cape Girardeau.

Performers include student singers Justin Moore and Sarah Orlovsky, Nwokoye and choir members from Notre Dame Regional High School. The concert is free, but donations will be accepted.

Nwokoye lived in Netunno, a town in the province of Rome, for 12 years starting at the age of 15. He has taken groups of students and adults to Europe for the last two years and said one of the great things about the trip is "reminding people that we are part of a bigger world."

Junior Matthew Puzzella is looking forward to visiting the San Giovanni Rotondo the most. The popular shrine to Saint Padre Pio is in southern Italy. Puzzella completed a research paper on Pio in high school and said he admires "the way he lived."

Freshman Jamie Litteken wants to see Pope Benedict XVI and "all the places we've learned about in church."

To prepare for the trip, Nwokoye has been offering Italian lessons on Saturday mornings.

Student Rita Jo Dirnberger wrote in an e-mail, "He is excited to share his knowledge of the religious, historical, cultural landmarks that will help students learn more about Italy, Catholicism, and themselves in the streets that he grew up in."


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