Rome Pilgrimage
Once in a Lifetime Opportunity for Members


Rome is a place of ancient history and the birthplace of Western civilization. It’s also the home of the Catholic Church...a fitting destination for Catholic Financial Life’s first pilgrimage for members.

This past November, 83 Catholic Financial Life members traveled with President & CEO John Borgen and Director of Member Engagement Sally Krochalk on a pilgrimage to experience three ancient cities significant to the Catholic faith and Christendom—Rome, Vatican City and Assisi.

The Journey Begins


From day one, members were immersed in history as they stood beside the Roman Colosseum, walked through the Roman Forum, and marveled at other historic structures that have literally stood the test of time—still standing after more than 2,000 years!

The eight-day pilgrimage included visits to some of the most historic and sacred sites of the Catholic Church, including the four major Basilicas of Rome and one in Assisi.

“This pilgrimage was a very powerful experience for our members in attendance,” John said. “It was uniquely different from just being a tourist. Celebrating daily Mass, seeing sacred art, and praying in such holy places created a deeply spiritual, transformative experience. You could feel the Holy Spirit!”

Members visited Basilicas beautiful beyond description with magnificent religious art and sculptures, including Michelangelo’s Pieta at St. Peter’s. A highlight for the group was standing beneath the ceiling of the world-renowned Sistine Chapel and viewing Michelangelo’s “The Creation of Adam,” one of the most recognizable and admired works of art in history. It’s also one of the locations in the Vatican where photographs and videos are not allowed.

Rome 1

Walk Through History

A day trip to Assisi included Mass in the Convent of St. Francis at the Basilica. The tomb of St. Francis lies beneath the basilica complex. The group also stopped at the Basilica of Santa Maria degli Angeli, home to the ninth-century church where St. Francis discerned his vocation, chose to live in poverty and serve the poor, and founded three Franciscan Orders. Members saw the actual brown tunic worn by St. Francis, a familiar visual from renderings of this famous saint, and walked in the saint’s footsteps to stand atop the hill overlooking the beautiful valley of Assisi.

“Beyond the history and the beauty of the places we visited was the opportunity to witness the impact it had on the group of pilgrims, drawing them closer to Christ with each stop along the way,” Sally said.

A drive along a portion of the Old Appian Way, an ancient Roman military road, led the group to the Catacombs—a maze of underground tunnels where persecuted Christians would secretly worship, practice their religious rites, and bury their dead. Excavation of the Vatican Necropolis beneath St. Peter’s Basilica led to the discovery of the tombs of many early Popes.

At the Tomb of St. Peter, bone fragments of the Apostle are recessed and illuminated behind protective glass. “It was incredible to see and reflect on the Apostle who had personally walked with Christ and was chosen by Him to be the first leader of the Church!” Sally said.


His Holiness

A pinnacle moment was an audience with the Holy Father, Pope Francis, in St. Peter’s Square. The group was grateful to receive a Papal Blessing and the opportunity to pray with the Holy Father on behalf of all Catholic Financial Life members.

“This trip was a dream for me and exceeded my expectations. What an amazing experience,” said member Barb Gaura. “The entire trip was a blessing in so many ways.”

What began with a group of people who were strangers ended with new friendships. “By the end of the week our group formed a special fraternal, familial bond,” John said. “I was blessed to have shared this experience with our members, joining them in prayer for all Catholic Financial Life members. I can’t wait to do it again!”


Photo credit: Tim Strauss, Member

Tagged: Faith Family

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