Bishop James P. Powers and fellow pilgrims enjoy a gondola ride in Venice. (Submitted photo)

Jenny Snarski
Catholic Herald staff

From Nov. 1 through Nov. 11, Bishop James P. Powers and Fr. John Anderson led a pilgrimage to Rome and other notable sites in Italy.

A group of pilgrims divided into two bus groups. Bishop Powers’ group was accompanied by parishioners from the Rice Lake area, Superior and some of his own family members. New Richmond cluster pastor Fr. John Anderson brought his own parishioners, including a few former parish members from St. Mary, Tomahawk, where he previously served. Many in Fr. Anderson’s group traveled with family or friends.

The itinerary covered visits to Venice, Padua, Florence, Assisi and Orvieto. The final four days were spent in Rome, including an optional day trip to Pompeii.
One of the pilgrims was Pat Wildenberg of Superior, the bishop’s secretary, whose husband also took part. A highlight for her was the Mass celebrated at the tomb of St. Peter under the main altar in the Vatican’s St. Peter’s Basilica.

Knowing the trip was a pilgrimage with fellow Catholics, she was aware the purpose “wasn’t just to have fun.” It was, in Wildenberg’s words, “Just awesome. To be standing in a basilica and Bishop celebrating Mass there for us. I don’t know how to express it; that was just something you never thought in your lifetime you’d be able to experience. Everywhere we went, we could not help but feel the presence of the early Christians who had walked these same steps, many of whom sacrificed their lives for their faith. We were truly blessed to experience the rich tradition and history with an amazing group of pilgrims.”

Two of those pilgrims, Patti Anderson and Terri Mikyska, are working with the Rice Lake Chronotype for a feature article on the trip. “This was such a wonderful experience. It is so great to be able to travel with people of the faith and to see and touch places where so many saints have gone before. To celebrate Mass in such holy places is a true gift.” Mikyska said.

For Anderson, the pilgrimage was a bucket-list opportunity she couldn’t pass up. “Knowing the Bishop from being our local priest, I thought what an honor to make the pilgrimage with him … There are few words to describe what we experienced,” she said.

Using “spectacular” to describe her trip in one word, Anderson elaborated, “Books never can capture the true grandeur of the churches and cities we visited.”