By Lois Fusco

Nearly 30 from Our Area See Shroud of Turin Up Close

A group of 27 pilgrims from western Massachusetts, upstate New York and central Connecticut ventured to Italy in late April on pilgrimage to view the Shroud of Turin. Their first stop was Rome where they visited, among other sites, Santa Susanna – the American Catholic church there. They were surprised by a visit from the Pastor, Paulist Father Greg Apparcel of California, who appeared on “Real to Reel” last December talking about the influence of St. Francis during a Catholic Communications-sponsored pilgrimage to Rome, Assisi and San Giovanni Rotondo.

Enjoy the images seen while inItaly!

Heart-shaped medals hanging from icons are very common in churches in Rome – gifts from families that have received special favors.

Next up was a church across the street – Santa Maria della Vittoria. Boston Cardinal Sean  O’Malley is the titular head of that church. These 2 sweet angels adorn the top of the Communion rail in front of the main altar.

Many churches in Italy offer numerous side altars that are devoted to one or another saint. This particular altar at St. Mary of Victory is devoted to the Sacred Heart.

The pilgrimage was led by Father Peter A. Gregory, pastor of St. Charles Parish in Pittsfield.  He stopped at the famous Trevi Fountain in Rome with his family – his sister Joyce, her husband Bob, and his sister Judy.

The Spanish steps are nearby and attract thousands of tourists. Pilgrims Ken and Barb Bissaillon and Kate and Mandy Porreco are awed by the many huge Azaleas there.

Later in the day, the pilgrims traveled to the Sanctuary of Our Lady of Divine Love on the outskirts of Rome. Buried there are Blessed Maria and Luigi Beltrame Quattrocchi, the first married couple to be beatified together. Four couples from the Diocese of Springfield renewed their vows including a tearful Joyce and Bob Pothier.

and Bill and Rose Ann Sturgeon, both of Pittsfield.

On Sunday at noon, the group received a papal blessing from Benedict XVI in St. Peter’s Square which is the setting of 1 of 8 Egyptian obelisks in the Eternal City, before heading north to Florence.

While in Florence, Fr. Peter had the honor of presiding over Mass for the group at the largest Franciscan church in Italy – Santa Croce.

The pilgrims visited many churches, the Pitti Palace and adjacent Boboli Gardens in Florence. One of the famous exteriors – the bronze doors of the Baptistery of San Giovanni by Lorenzo Ghiberti – is referred to as the “Gates of Paradise.” The sculptor’s work is one of the defining pieces of the Italian Renaissance.

The pilgrims were mesmerized by the beauty of many altars, the likes of which cannot be described by words.

Next, it was a 5-hour drive through the Italian countryside in picture-perfect weather. The pilgrims’ first full day in Turin – Torino, in Italian – began with Mass at a sister church, San Carlo, which is dedicated to St. Charles Borromeo. It was the very church where the Pontiff would visit four days later on May 2. The pilgrims got to watch as preparations were being made outside in Piazza San Carlo.

The visit by Benedict XVI was well publicized throughout Turin.

Pilgrims snaked around a 2-mile route to see the Shroud … about one-and-one-half hours in the sun.

Then, the moment was at hand. A feeling of peacefulness came over the group as it got to view the Shroud.

All agreed, it made the journey worthwhile.

Our pilgrims had advance reservations and got to see the Shroud up close once inside the Cathedral of St. John the Baptist.

That evening, the group dined Italian style in one of the many wonderful restaurants in Turin. Brimfield residents Sheilah and Ricco Krohn  are still best friends and can still make each other laugh after 27 years of marriage. 

As dessert was served, Joie and Junior Bourassa of Pittsfield fed each other, symbolic of a bride and groom who feed each other wedding cake.

Both couples renewed their vows in Rome.

The final stop on the eight-day journey was Italy’s fashion capital, Milan. There was some time for shopping at the first Prada store in the world  and at many other shops located in the city center.

Instead of shopping, some chose to climb to the rooftop of the spectacular Duomo, the fourth largest church in the world, for a prime view of the architecture of the spires and the Milan skyline.

All too soon, it was time to head home, filled with irreplaceable memories!