Article Written by: Mary Henige 

“Consider this: whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows bountifully will also reap bountifully” (2 Cor 9:6).

A pilgrimage is a quest for God. It is an experiential and spiritual adventure and an opportunity to encounter God by visiting important locations in our Church’s history. Eighteen Catholic Foundation of Michigan leaders and supporters, including Detroit Archbishop Allen Vigneron, traveled to Greece to follow in the footsteps of St. Paul in October.

Catholic Foundation of Michigan pilgrims pose with Archbishop Allen Vigneron after he celebrated Mass in Corinth.

St. Paul’s witness and determination to spread the gospel, founding groups of Jesus followers wherever he went, despite hardships, is a model of courageous evangelization. Paul traveled to the Gentiles and pagans to proclaim Christ crucified and God’s loving salvation through his Son Jesus.

“It was incredible to be led by our shepherd, Archbishop Allen Vigneron, and walk the same marble roads in Ephesus and other cities that Paul traveled two centuries ago, ” Foundation President and CEO Angela Moloney said. “St. Paul planted seeds of the gospel wherever he went. His many letters came alive during our site visits, Scripture readings, and Masses. Similarly, the Catholic Foundation of Michigan helps ensure that our Catholic parishes, schools, and ministries will thrive perpetually with funds our donors invest today—it’s our way of spreading the Good News,” Angela added.

The Parthenon and the vastness of the buildings were almost unbelievable. The pilgrims recalled that when St. Paul arrived in Athens, “he grew exasperated at the sight of the city full of idols” (Acts 17:15). He climbed the Areopagus and said, “For as I walked around looking carefully at your shrines, I even discovered an altar inscribed, ‘To an Unknown God.’” Like St. Paul, may we be unafraid to speak the truth.

The 10-day pilgrimage included visits to Thessaloniki, Philippi, and Athens and a four-day cruise to islands where St. Paul preached, including Crete and Patmos. A visit to Ephesus in Turkey was a highlight, with the day beginning at the House of Mary, where the Blessed Mother lived her last earthly days with St. John the Evangelist.

“Our pilgrimage was an extraordinary opportunity to grow in faith and learn about the challenges faced by the early disciples of Christ, similar to today. This experience brings to mind the roles we all play in evangelizing our faith in today’s world,” said Board Chair Pat Fehring. “One of the most important roles the Catholic Foundation serves is to inspire generous giving for the good works and evangelization that Catholic organizations perform within our community. These good works include social services, education, health care, and parish life.”

Incoming Board Chair Chris Allen and his wife participated. “Carol and I were pleased to journey with a wonderful group of people. We will always remember walking in the same footsteps as St. Paul. Carol and I have committed to reviewing the Acts of the Apostles and reliving the life of Apostle Paul as he traveled in Greece and Turkey.”

Foundation Board member and Corporate Travel Service President John Hale organized the pilgrimage for the Foundation. John said the change of routines on a pilgrimage lead to open hearts where the Holy Spirit can speak. He also said pilgrims build community. 

“Based on the grace our pilgrims received in Greece, we look forward to offering future pilgrimage opportunities to our supporters,” Moloney said. “There are countless ways to unleash the Gospel. For the Foundation, inspiring, generous giving and deepening our understanding of the Church and her ministries is our way. St. Paul inspired us to pray and work harder to make Jesus known in our world today as individuals and as the Foundation.”

For me, the sacramental nature of a pilgrimage—Archbishop Vigneron’s prayers at each site we visited, listening to Paul’s words at each location—and daily Masses—from beautiful cathedrals to celebrating amidst the ruins in Corinth and near the river where St. Paul baptized St. Lydia, brought me to tears. As a lector, St. Paul’s words in his epistles and the Acts of the Apostles are burned in my heart. My proclamation is forever changed.

Following in the footsteps of St. Paul reminded us that being a Christian is a communal activity. In ancient Corinth the Archbishop spoke of our apostleship as a team effort, not something simply one person does but rather a community undertakes to build up the entire community. It was a privilege to be on pilgrimage with the Archbishop. What an affirmation of his support of the Catholic Foundation of Michigan and our work,” shared Angela Moloney.  

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