European Pilgrimage April 13-May 1, 2008

Rev. John F. Gagnier

Thirtieth Anniversary April 28, 1978-2008


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The Pilgrimage began at Rochester with a group led by Father Joseph Catanise of Saint Leo the Great Church in Hilton, New York. We landed at Rome Monday, April 14 and took a bus directly to Assisi, home of St. Francis (1181-1226) and St. Clare, (1193-1253) world famous followers of Jesus Christ.

St. Francis of Assisi, who lived poorly and humbly, is perhaps the most widely-known and universally-loved saint in history. What about this simple man has captivated the imaginations of persons of all generations?

Francis speaks to us of the importance of on-going conversion. He was a sensitive, caring, gentle man who became so like Christ as to bear in his body the wounds of Christ. Francis' process of growing more and more like Christ was not an easy or simple one. He had doubts, went through depression and became disillusioned with what was happening around him. Each of those experiences moved him toward, rather than away from, his beloved Jesus.
Francis was exuberant in praising God! What an example of enthusiasm (being "in-God")! He lived life to the fullest.
Francis teaches us about suffering and peacemaking.
Francis saw all of creation as good. Thus he had tremendous reverence for each person and all of creation.

St. Clare of Assisi, often referred to as "the first Franciscan woman," was "born in a feudal society as a woman of the aristocracy. Born in 1193, Clare's formation was well underway by the time Francis received oral approval of his Rule in 1209. On Palm Sunday, 1212, when Clare consecrated herself to God before Francis, Clare was around eighteen years of age. She had been formed by her mother in a household of women who prayed together and gave alms and food to the poor and hungry of Assisi. Clare felt "the Privilege of Poverty was worth talking about." Founder of the Order of the Poor Ladies (Poor Clares) at San Damiano in 1215, she "was the first woman to write a rule for religious women.

On Wednesday Morning, Father Joe and Father John celebrated Mass before the Tomb of St. Francis. That afternoon, the group took a bus to Ancona on the East Coast of Italy.

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Portiuncula “Little Portion” where Francis was called by Jesus to “Rebuild My Church” - Basilica of Our Lady of Angels. Inside the Basilica stands the little church that St. Francis repaired with his own hands. He lived and died near this church.

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The place of the death of St. Francis on October 3, 1226, now inside the present Basilica.

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The hermitage of St. Francis, high on a hill above the town of Assisi.

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Windows of Saint Clare (left) and Saint Francis (right) flank a crucifix in the hermitage

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Basilica of Saint Francis of Assisi. His tomb is in a crypt below this church.

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Father John and Father Joe before boarding the ferry across the Adriatic Sea to Croatia.

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The port of Split in Croatia.

After arrival was another bus ride to Medjugorje in Bosnia-Herzegovina.

The little town of Medjugorje in the former Yugoslavia has been visited by over forty million people since 1981. Six young people began having apparitions of the Blessed Virgin Mary on June 25, 1981. Three of them still see Mary every day. They have brought messages from Mary, calling upon the people of the world to believe in Jesus, to repent of their sins, and to pray for the conversion of people to Jesus. At an unknown future date, the apparitions will end. A permanent sign will be left on the hill of Apparitions.

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A view of the town of Medjugorje and Saint James Church

The story of Saint James Church began in 1897, only five years after Medjugorje became an independent parish, with the construction of a small place of worship. Not only was it small, but it was built on sinking, quake-prone earth. The building cracked, and its tower came to lean more than Pisa's. A new, larger church was designed right after World War I, yet various delays kept the foundations from being laid until 1936. Construction did not get under way until 1940. World War II and Yugoslavia's bloody civil strife prevented anything more being done on the church until 1966. Even though the interiors were not yet finished, St. James was finally blessed January 19, 1969.

Intriguingly, the church was much larger than it needed to be. All that, of course, changed on June 25, 1981. Within days of the first apparitions of Mary, the Franciscans focused attention on Mass and the Eucharist. The location of the apparitions was moved to the church in 1982, after a government crackdown on outdoor gatherings.

International attention has brought to St. James the ability to make many improvements. The roof has been covered with copper, with stained glass windows added in 1987. There is one special window that shows a heavenly lady gazing down on six simple peasant children of Medjugorje. The spacious paved square in front of the church was completed in 1988, with a beautiful statue of Our Lady in Carrara marble by Italy's Dino Felici. The statue was created from descriptions given by the visionaries.

The central event of every day in Medjugorje, takes place at St. James. The Rosary begins at 5:00pm, stopping for silence during the apparition at 5:40pm and leading into the Croatian Mass at 6:00pm. This is a powerful Mass, even to pilgrims who speak no Croatian. The abundance of priests, from all over the world, makes possible Masses in English, German, French, Italian, and other languages throughout the day.

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(LEFT) Vicka Ivankovic-Mijatovic is the oldest of the six visionaries. She was born September 3, 1964, in Bijakovici, and comes from a family of eight children. Our Lady appeared to her for the first time on June 24, 1981. For her, the daily apparitions have not yet stopped.

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Father John Gagnier poses in front of Saint James Church

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Father John and Father Joe on Hill of Apparition

with a statue erected on the original site.


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In church with their new vestments.


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Outdoor pavilion and chairs behind St. James Church to accommodate the large crowds in the summer months.

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Group poses at hotel with our guide Mickey (standing, center)


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Waterfalls on the Trebizat River in Bosnia-Herzegovina

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The Mostar Bridge was a very famous and historical bridge before its destruction in 1993 during the war in Bosnia and Hercegovina (part of the former Yugoslavia). The elegant bridge spanned the River Neretva and was designed by the Ottoman (Turkish) architect Mimar Hayruddin. It was completed in 1566 after nine years of building and the surrounding town became a thriving trading centre. The bridge was 29 metres in length and stood at a height of 20 metres, a classic example of a single span, stone arch bridge and was an example of advanced technology in its time. It became a World Heritage site during the twentieth century.

UNESCO, the World Bank and the City of Mostar launched a project to rebuild the old bridge. Much of the original white limestone as possible was salvaged from the bed of the river below. New stone was quarried from nearby quarries. The bridge symbolizes the reunification of Mostar and is part of the healing process for this ethnically divided town. On July 23rd, 2004, the reconstructed Mostar Bridge was opened by the Prince of Wales (Prince Charles.)


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Father John poses in an Ottoman Empire home, with a fez but no ottoman!


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The group returned to Italy by ferry then bused to Rome for a day tour including the Trevi Fountain.

On Wednesday April 23, the group returned to Rochester while

Father Gagnier stayed on at the North American College, a seminary in Rome.



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Fountain in front of the Pantheon


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Tiber River and Castel San Angelo (Hadrian’s Tomb)

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The North American College on the Janiculum Hill, as seen from the dome of Saint Peter’s

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Saint Peter’s Square, seen from the dome, looking a like a giant keyhole.

Note the shadow of the dome.

The obelisk was brought from Egypt in 37 A.D by Emperor Caligula

and erected in the Circus of Nero.

The obelisk, at 83 feet and over 330 tons

was moved to its present site in 1586 with 900 men and 72 horses.

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30th Anniversary Mass with Deacon Edison Tayag,

who was ordained a priest on 28 June ‘08


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With a Vatican Swiss Guard

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North American College Terrace April 28 Pope Benedict XVI Public Audience April 30

ORVIETO, ITALY Scene of a Eucharistic Miracle

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The Blood-Stained Corporal displayed above the Altar


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The Orvieto Cathedral

Eucharistic Miracle of Orvieto: In 1263 a German priest, Peter of Prague, stopped at Bolsena while on a pilgrimage to Rome. He is described as being a pious priest, but one who found it difficult to believe that Christ was actually present in the consecrated Host. While celebrating Holy Mass above the tomb of St. Christina (located in the church named for this martyr), he had barely spoken the words of Consecration when blood started to seep from the consecrated Host and trickle over his hands onto the altar and the corporal. The priest was immediately confused. At first he attempted to hide the blood, but then he interrupted the Mass and asked to be taken to the neighboring city of Orvieto, the city where Pope Urban IV was then residing.

The Pope listened to the priest's account. He then sent emissaries for an immediate investigation. When all the facts were ascertained, he ordered the Bishop of the diocese to bring to Orvieto the Host and the linen cloth bearing the stains of blood. With archbishops, cardinals and other Church dignitaries in attendance, the Pope met the procession and, amid great pomp, had the relics placed in the cathedral. The linen corporal bearing the spots of blood is still reverently enshrined and exhibited in the Cathedral of Orvieto.

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Wed. April 30, 2008 : Pope Benedict XVI speaks to 30.000 people at weekly Audience.

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Pope Benedict XVI greets crowds from the Popemobile.

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Pieta (1499) by Michaelangelo Buonarroti (1475-1564)

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Wood models of inventions of Leonardo DaVinci (1452-1519)

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