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“Culminating experience of their theology program:” Students leave on pilgrimage to Italy

MILWAUKEE -- On the day after Christmas, while many of us were still on vacation, a group of about 15 students from St. Joan Antida -- an all-girls high school in Milwaukee -- left on a different kind of trip.

St. Joan Antida

St. Joan Antida

"We are going on our Franciscan pilgrimage," said senior Marisa Rodriguez.

It is a 10-day pilgrimage, following in the footsteps of saints. The group will travel to Rome and Assisi, Italy to learn about St. Francis and St. Clare.

“They will be visiting holy shrines. They will be going to holy sites and they will be doing a lot of reflection and prayer," Head of School Paul Gessner said.

“I am most excited about seeing all of the old churches because I think that they are very beautiful and they have a lot of, not only history in there, but spirit," Rodriguez said.

St. Joan Antida

St. Joan Antida

Saints Francis and Clare were both from Assisi, and both left behind wealthy upbringings for a life of service. School leaders said it’s an important thought for students from the 21st century.

“Just this idea of stripping off all of the wealth of this world. Embracing the simpler side of life, and really of being in service to others," Gessner said.

St. Joan Antida

St. Joan Antida

St. Joan Antida

St. Joan Antida

St. Joan Antida sponsors this trip every two years, and the students make sure to emphasize that a pilgrimage is quite different from a vacation.

“For pilgrimage, you are trying to find out more about yourself -- more about the people around you and more about how you feel, your faith and stuff like that," Rodriguez said.

St. Joan Antida

St. Joan Antida

“It is sort of a culminating experience of their theology program,"Gessner said.

The students will be posting pictures and regular blog posts -- reflections on their trip -- on the school’s Facebook page. You can view those updates here.

St. Joan Antida

St. Joan Antida

St. Joan Antida

St. Joan Antida