Ad limina pilgrims reflect on ‘trip of a lifetime’

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After giving up his chance to greet Pope Benedict XVI on a pilgrimage a couple of years ago, Fr. Paul Hartmann got a second chance on the ad limina trip last month. basilicaThe sun rises over St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome, Italy, as pilgrims from the Milwaukee Archdiocese (not shown) wait in line to enter St. Peter’s for the consistory. (Submitted photo taken by one of the pilgrims, Ann Marie Wick)“I had met him before when he was the Cardinal Prefect of the Doctrine of the Faith, but that was a brief encounter,” said Fr. Hartmann, president of Catholic Memorial High School, Waukesha.
“But I passed up the chance to shake his hand on that pilgrimage and gave it to a friend of mine who had traveled there with his three kids. His wife had passed a year before and she had always wanted to meet the pope, so I gave up the opportunity. Of course, I joked with him that my chance had better come eventually or he would regret it!”
Fr. Hartmann also appreciated traveling with Archbishop Jerome E. Listecki and praying at the tombs of St. Peter and St. Paul, and celebrating at the Pontifical North American Pontifical College with other bishops.
“Archbishop Listecki is wonderful and at the various meetings we attended, he always brought such care to each of his appointments and discussions,” said Fr. Hartmann. “It was great to spend time with him in a formal setting and to concelebrate Mass, as well as the casual moments at the North American College. He so happily and proudly spoke of the Archdiocese of Milwaukee.”
The trip was an opportunity to encounter the church in a unique way, said Fr. Hartmann.
“The Holy Spirit is present and the Apostles are in our midst and we can’t help but be moved by it,” he said. “I was introduced by Archbishop Listecki to the Holy Father by my job at the archdiocese (judicial vicar of the metropolitan tribunal) and my role in the high school. I felt a moment of pride and it is not something I will ever forget.”
Thousands of pilgrims also traveled to witness the elevation of Archbishop Timothy M. Dolan to cardinal, and Fr. Hartmann came home with a renewed sense of the vibrancy of the church.
John Stollenwerk and his wife JoEllen live in Switzerland part-time and were excited to be part of the ad limina trip and the consistory.
“The whole atmosphere was one of joy,” he said. “We were able to break some bread together as a group and it was a joyous occasion. The ad limina meant more in that respect as there were so many more people celebrating the consistory throughout the world.”
Like many, the Stollenwerks extended their stay to be present for both events.lestecki-and-womanArchbishop Jerome E. Listecki and Ann Marie Wick are pictured on the roof of the Pontifical North American College with St. Peter’s visible in the background. (Submitted photo courtesy Ann Marie Wick)
“The whole thing was a witness to Christ really, being an evangelical for Christ’s message was the main part of it,” said John, former chair of the Archdiocesan Commission of Catholic Schools. “The Italian food and wine are secondary. It is really a witness to our faith and to stand up for what we believe. Seeing all those people there from all over the world was impressive. It is really beautiful to think that all over the world, wherever there are Catholics, we are all witnessing and participating in the same Mass.”
Traveling to Rome before Ash Wednesday was a good time to focus on growing spiritually, explained Chris Gentine, who traveled with his wife, Julie.
“We traveled with the New York contingency, but were hoping to run into Archbishop Listecki at the North American Pontifical College while we were there,” said Chris, who knew the archbishop through the Campanile Society whose members are those who donate $1,000 dollars or more each year to the Catholic Stewardship Appeal.
While on a walk to the cab stand in front of St. Peter’s Square, the couple, members of St. John the Baptist Parish, Plymouth, saw Archbishop Listecki, who invited them to dinner.
“It was wonderful and we had a great dinner, more as friends, in a nice venue where we shared, laughed and told good stories,” said Chris. “He took us to this restaurant where it was legend that this was the same building that Caesar was murdered.”
For Anne Marie Wick, former chair of the board of trustees of Catholic Charities, the trip was a once-in-a-lifetime experience as she witnessed the elevation of Cardinal Dolan as well as spent time with Archbishop Listecki and Bishop Donald J. Hying.
Though her third time in Rome, the consistory helped her learn more about Catholicism and her religious history.
“It was a pretty popped weekend and the high point was the Mass with the Holy Father on Sunday, and Cardinal Dolan’s Mass of Thanksgiving at St. Paul’s Basilica Outside of the Walls, as well as the reception at the North American College,” she said.
“There were so many events and so much energy. It was a time of intense spirituality and growth and it was an honor to be there. I wasn’t even on Archbishop Listecki’s tour and he made me feel welcome with this group. He was an outstanding host – that’s how accommodating he is,” she said.
Bill O’Toole, president of Catholic Financial Life, was gratified to see so many young people who have embraced religious vocations in attendance.
“I got there on Wednesday and left on Monday and was able to be at the Mass with the cardinal on Wednesday, Thursday and then Saturday was the service where he was received as cardinal and was presented with his skullcap (zucchetto), biretta and ring. Then Sunday we attended the basilica for the Thanksgiving Mass,” he said.
Attending Mass celebrated by Pope Benedict XVI was another highlight of the trip.
“I thought the Holy Father does a remarkable job for his age,” said O’Toole, who last attended a general audience in 1995 when Pope John Paul II celebrated Mass. “I left feeling hope for our church and the future. It was very powerful and left you feeling inspired. I left with the confidence that we have what we need to face the future and to know we don’t go it alone.”
O’Toole spent time with Archbishop Listecki and La Crosse Bishop William P. Callahan during the reception at the Pontifical North American College.
“We are blessed in our archdiocese and blessed to have the leadership of Archbishop Listecki. Hopefully, we can hang on to him for a while,” he said. “We are very fortunate to have so many inspiring leaders in the church; we have challenges, of course, but there is so much hope for our church and I walked away with a very renewed feeling for Rome.”

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