Monday, December 16, 2013

Final Thoughts

Spending four months in Europe was one of the best experiences of my life so far. Being able to travel and see all these places that I’ve only ever seen in pictures was unbelievable. Like, they actually do exist and they are even more beautiful in real life than in pictures. This semester really helped me to see that I am able to be independent and follow a map and communicate with people who don’t speak my language.
After anything anyone ever does, people always ask “what was your favorite part?” I would have to say that I didn’t have a favorite part because everything I did was so different. Each adventure had its own favorite part, but there was not one adventure that stuck out above all the others. I think this is because each trip has its own category such as “learned the most here” “most somber trip” “most breathtaking adventure.”

Looking back on my semester studying abroad I have such an appreciation for it. While I was at all these different places, I thought I had a great appreciation for where I was standing and what I was looking at. Looking back even just a few days later, I can see that I appreciate it even more now than I did while I was there. I am so grateful that I had the opportunity to study abroad with my friends and travel to monuments, ancient places, and pilgrimage sites. It is an experience that I will never forget as long as I live. 


Christmas break officially started in Gaming, Austria on December 10th after my nursing final. Marissa and I came back to our room and started packing right away! I was mostly packed before I headed off to bed.
Wednesday morning we packed, cleaned, helped Shannon pack, cleaned some more and then went to Mass. We kinda cleaned in the afternoon, but we were at the point where we couldn’t do too much more without moving out, so we just hung out and then I went for a walk up behind the Kartause. It was so beautiful and peaceful.
After my walk, I went to dinner at the Pipp’s and then we came back to the Kartause to watch the end of the semester video. It was about 40 minutes and made for a lot of laughs. The RD’s were having a bonfire out in the courtyard, so Cheris and I went out and stood around and talked for a while. We wanted to go look at the stars, so we walked out front by the creek but we couldn’t see any of them because the street light was too bright. So we stood on the bridge and watched the water while we talked for a while longer. We went back to the fire and warmed up and then came back inside to go to bed. We had been outside for two hours, but it was a perfect way to end the semester.
Friday I was up early to shower and start cleaning…but my roommates had been up late so they slept for a while. I knew it was going to be a long day, so I didn’t disturb them or start cleaning until 10:30am. I spent an hour and a half cleaning the shower until Mass because there was so much calcium build up. In the afternoon we cleaned some more and then just chilled out. We had dinner and then I laid on my bed and tried to rest before our room check. Our room was first checked my Theresa the RA who told us to dust a few things. We did that and then Scott the RD came and double checked it. We had to clean under the sink a little bit and then Scott gave us the all clear to leave! We picked up our stuff and then shut the door behind us.
It was about 8:30pm and we had nowhere to go before midnight Mass, so we hung out in the lobby on second floor outside the computer lab. I braided a few peoples hair, wrote a suggestion for Mr. Pipp, tried to sleep and talked with the people walking by. I have never felt so much like a homeless person in all my life.
Around midnight, I headed over to the church. Everyone was there and Fr. Ron gave a homily giving us a little timeline of what we had done while we were in Austria. After Mass, there was a sharing/witness time and a few people got up and spoke. Some people talked about how this was the best experience of their life and how they grew in their faith or friendships. The best one was definitely Denis. He said that the most important and best thing we did all semester was what we just did…go to Mass. He said that we were so privileged to have been able to receive Jesus every day and that when we go back to the states, we can still receive Jesus’ body and blood every day. It was really awesome and kinda just put the whole thing in perspective. After the witnessing, the sisters turned the lights off and Cara came in with candles dresses as St. Lucy because it was the feast of St. Lucy.
After all of that, people went outside and started saying their goodbyes. There were so many tears and laughs and hugs all going around. I had already lost it at communion time when Daniel Pipp and smiled at me and it hit me that I’m never going to see him again. After I hugged a zillion people and cried some more, I loaded Shannon’s and my bags on the buses and then we got ready to pull out. The Kartause parents and staff stood on either side of the driveway and waved us off while the kids (who were awake at 2:45am) stood at the end of the driveway and waved as well. We were on our way back to the states.
We got to the airport around 5am and Marissa and I helped Shannon get her bags checked and her backpack on. After that, Marie, Andrew, Tess, Marissa, and I hung out at a café and then a McDonalds until our flights at 11:30am. We got the London at 1pm and because I had booked my flights differently than Marie, she was able to check her bags to Newark but I could only check them to London and then I was going to have to re-check them. I had to go out through customs, claim my bag, re-check it, go through security again, and then wait for our gate to be announced so that I could find Marie again. It wasn’t too bad.
It was actually pretty cool because when I was changing terminals, I was standing in the same spot I had been in on August 25 when I was changing terminals and missing my flight. I stood there in London and realized that I had come full circle. It was really awesome. 
We boarded our flight at 3:30 and then we were on our way back to the states by 5pm! It was a really long flight…like, really long. We were on the plane for about 9 hours. We had dinner, I watched a movie, played Battleship and Sudoku, slept for about two hours, and then ate a breakfast/snack. We landed at 6:30 and realized we were back in the states. We got off the plane and went through customs/border patrol and then went to get our bags. It took forever for my bag to finally come off and while we were waiting, Marie and called her dad who said that there was a huge snowstorm on the way. My flight the next morning was most likely going to be delayed if not cancelled, so he suggested I try to find a flight out that night. It took so long though to get our baggage and then drop off our forms to declare what we had, that I opted to just go back to Marie’s house and see what happened the next morning.
Marie’s mother and had made dinner so we had salmon, broccoli, and sweet potato fries. It was really yummy and so nice to have a home cooked meal. We visited with her family and then she unpacked her souvenirs to show her family. Then they set up a mattress in Marie’s room so that I could sleep in there and we went to bed around 11:30 with plans to wake up at 5:30 to leave for the airport at 5:45. The snowstorm had been moved back so it didn’t look like it was going to hit until 10am.
At 4:18 I woke up and could not fall back to sleep. My body was telling me it was 10:18 and that I had missed breakfast. I laid in bed until 5:30 and then got up and got ready. Marie and her dad drove me to the airport at 6:15 and then Marie helped me check my bag and get to security because it was 7am and my flight left at 8am. And I had to switch terminals. I made it through and had about five minutes to wait before boarding. Once we boarded, we didn’t leave for an hour because they had to spray down the plane with de-icing chemicals. It was barely snowing when we had left Marie’s house, but the snow was really starting to come down while we were waiting on the runway. Finally, we took off and we were one of the last flights out!
We landed in Buffalo at about 10am and I got off the plane and headed out to see the family! They were all waiting and watching and waving! It was so exciting. The people in front of me were like, “I thought they were welcoming us back!” Gabby recognized me and gave me a big hug and kiss. There were hugs all around and we made our way downstairs to wait for my luggage. After we waited for a while and there were no bags to be seen and nobody else standing around, we went over to the desk to see where we were supposed to be. They checked for my bag and it turned out that it was still sitting in the Newark airport. They said they would get it out here on the next flight and then deliver it to the house.

We all went out to the car and I told stories all the way home. Everyone had made quiche, little biscuits, and ham, and then there was also placek and raspberry sweets. I shared about my experiences all morning and afternoon and just enjoyed spending time with the family. It was so great to be home and with my family after almost four months! 

Adventures with the Pipps - Dinner

On December 11th, the Pipp’s invited over all the girls who had done Ministry to Mom’s with their family. It was so nice to hang out with their whole family while Mr. and Mrs. Pipp cooked dinner and the kids ran around and played. They made tacos with homemade soft shells and then had chocolate cake and vanilla ice cream for dessert. I sat next to Joshua who could not sit still and decided to tell me about his Monster boxers. I’m pretty sure Mrs. Pipp (who was on his other side) was mortified, but she just laughed and said, “well, I’m glad we so comfortable with you!”
When we had dessert Joshua had gotten up and Gianna had come to sit on my lap so I braided her hair and then we ate our cake together. Damien was on the bench next to us, so I fed him his cake and ice cream and played with him. Later on I found out that there was cake on my shirt, but no matter! It’s just chocolate cake!

We took pictures with their family and they gave us each a little gift. We all got ready to walk over to the Kartause to see the end of the semester video, and then we all meandered over. It was such a fun evening and a perfect way to end Ministry to Moms. 


Finals. That is all.

But seriously, the weekend of December 6-8th was our last weekend in Gaming. It actually started on December 5th because it was a reading day. We had “breakfast under the stars” on Thursday where the professors made breakfast for us at 8pm. They made the best potatoes EVER and they also had sausage, eggs, waffles, real milk, and real maple syrup…all served by the friars, the professors, and the Kartause families. It was so much fun!
Friday was an entire day of just studying for tests.
Saturday morning I studied and went to Mass and then in the afternoon, I had my History test. I felt like I nailed it except for two questions.
Sunday I studied, went to Mass, and studied.
Yep. Welcome to the life of a college student during finals.

Sleep? Non-existent. 

Adventures with the Pipps - Week 3

This week, Betaile and I went to the Pipps for the last time. They all came running down the stairs to greet us. It was so sweet. I spent some time reading to Gianna and Damien for as long as he would sit still while I simultaneously talked to Mrs. Pipp. Then I read to Daniel for a while…all the same books I had just read to Gianna and Damien. The older boys went out to play and Gianna and I did some puzzles and played a board game. Damien sat on my lap for about 45 minutes and just kept sliding pieces into a game (similar to connect four). I have never seen a little boy sit still for so long. 

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Thanksgiving Weekend

The weekend of November 29-December 1 started off on November 28 – Thanksgiving day. I spent the day in History class, working for Mr. Wolter, and doing homework. Around 3pm, I started helping people get ready for the Thanksgiving dinner and Austria ball by sewing up people’s dresses and braiding hair. Marissa, Shannon, and I headed over to the Mensa at 5:15 because we had volunteered to serve the dinner. The Mensa was decorated for Thanksgiving and everyone was dressed in Dirndls and Lederhosens (traditional Austrian clothing that we can rent from the school). Marissa and I and a few others ended up serving Franciscan students in the Keller. There was some sort of soup served first, followed by turkey with gravy, a dumpling,  mashed potatoes, and carrots. For dessert there was a slice of apple tart with a scoop of ice cream and a dolip of whipped cream. The dessert was the best part…and not just because dessert always is.
After the dinner, I went back and freshened up to go to the ball. After a little bit of meandering around talking to people, the dance got started. I danced with Joseph for the first dance and it was so much fun and confusing because we had no idea what we were doing. They took a break and they had some Slap Dancers come out and dance for us. It was super cool! For the second dance we learned, I danced with Becca because, as is typical of Franciscan, girls end up dancing with girls because there are way more girls than guys. It was tons of fun. We danced together for the next dance, and then I switched Becca out and danced with Ashley. There was some more slap dancing for us to watch, and then Matt and I danced while we slammed into the other fifty people who were also dancing. I took a break and ended up taking my shift as bouncer (it was really Hana’s shift, but she went to Switzerland and I volunteered to do it for her) at the door to make sure people didn’t bring any beverages into the ballroom. The slap dancers came out one more time and lit this thing on fire in the middle of the room and it lit up the whole room. It was super cool. After they left, there was a ten minute break, and then the AMDG guys DJ-ed for the rest of the night. I stayed until about midnight when Jennifer and I got bored because the music was really lame. It all had the same beat and was the type of music you would mindlessly listed to while doing homework…not great dancing music. It was still a ton of fun though and I’m so glad I went.
Friday morning I did some homework, and then work for Mr. Wolter hanging up the Durndels and Leaderhosens that were a mess in the storage room. I did homework for the rest of the day. During the afternoon, Ashley and I walked into town and got coffee, chocolate, a poster board, and a kebob for her. In the evening, I worked on the poster asking for donations for the people in the Philippines. I didn’t have any glue to glue the pictures and typed paragraphs onto the poster board, so I went down to the RA office to see if they had any. Dan looked around and found this bottle of stuff in the RD office. Of course it was in German so we couldn’t read what it was, so he squirted some of it onto a piece of paper and felt it and tried to see if it would make the paper stick together. We looked it up on the internet and didn’t find anything, but we were pretty sure it was glue. I started using it to put the pictures on the poster and we were kinda just hoping it was gonna make the paper stick. After I had put the last piece on, Scott, the RD, walked into the office and asked what I was doing. I told him I was making a poster about the Philippines and Dan chimed in to say that he found this bottle of stuff in the RD office and we thought it was glue so we used it. Scott was like, “Uh, yeah, that’s super glue.” Those pictures are definitely not coming off!
Saturday morning I decided to sleep in (8am! Yeah!) and then went to Mass. Fr. Ron helped me set up a spot in the back of church to put the poster up and we found a basked to use for donations. After that, I did homework until lunch and then Cheris and I walked around the Advent Market. There were so many cute little Christmas things that we were glad we had left our wallets in our rooms. I did homework all afternoon and then took a nap until dinner. After dinner, Ann and I went to the Christmas Carol play that the LCI students and Kartause kids performed. We sat up in the window so that we could see and it was so cute to watch! After that, Cheris combed my hair for lice (still lice free!) and then Becca, Cheris, and I hung out in a tea kitchen while I cut Nazzar’s hair.

Sunday morning was nice and slow. I went to Mass and nearly killed my feet in the process. I had to borrow someone else’s dress shoes but both the girls I’ve been borrowing shoes from were wearing their black dress shoes so I went and asked someone else and she gave me her 3” high black heels. I took them and put them on because I was about to be late for Mass, but as soon as Mass was over, I went straight back to my room and changed because my feet hurt so bad! I mean, they fit, but my feet aren’t used to heels. After Mass I went to Sunday brunch and then joked around with Marissa and did homework all afternoon. And I threw snowballs at Ashley’s room when I needed something to do. I combed people for lice and then went to bed early around 10:30. 

Two-day Weekend

The weekend of November 23-24 was only a two day weekend because we had a Recovery day on Monday after Rome and Assisi so there was class on Friday. I stayed back to catch up on homework that I hadn’t done because I had been sleeping while I was sick, and to get some more rest because I was still exhausted. After classes on Friday, Ashley and I walked down to Spar and got coffee and then we went to the Bakery to get a treat. I bought this little cake that had layers of cake and cream and was topped with fruit. It was just the right amount of sweet and tangy.
            On Saturday, Ashley and I spent most of the day in Kolbe studying PHP together, procrastinating, and working on other assignments. I had to study for my PHP quiz, prep from my CMP debate about the medical use of marijuana, prep for my nurse theorist presentation, and write a 5 page paper about Divine Inspiration and Human Genius. It was a busy day, but Ashley and I had a ton of fun hanging out together.

            Sunday morning I went to Mass for the feast of Christ the King. I spent the rest of the day doing homework and then took a shift in the RA office in the evening to be available to check or comb people for lice. All in all it was a very productive weekend.     

Friday, November 22, 2013

Rome/Assisi Day 10

          Sunday morning I was up at 4:30 to wash my hair and be downstairs for breakfast at 5am. Marissa, Ashley and I headed out to the buses at 5:10 and we were the first ones there. We staked out our area in the back of the bus and hoped no one would sit near us. Marissa and I ended up sharing the back row with five seat and Ashley and Elizabeth each had their own seat plus the seat next to them open in the row in front of us. It was totally worth it to be the first ones down there. I slept for about an hour and then did some homework.
          I ended up sleeping on an off for most of the ride but was awake for the last two hours. It was a thirteen hour trip and I was coming down with a cold the whole time, but it was so awesome to have the back row to ourselves. We made it back to the Kartause at 7pm and all the washing machines were already in use by 7:10. We had dinner and then I came back to my room to unpack and organize homework.

          The Rome and Assisi pilgrimage was a great experience because I was able to see so many places where Saints lived and died and where our faith really began. It was so great to experience it with my peers and to see the strength of their faith and how each of us individually grew in our faith. 

Rome/Assisi Day 9

          Saturday morning I took a shower in our strange shower. I thought the bathrooms in Rome were strange, but the bathrooms in Assisi are even stranger. We do have normal toilet paper and a normal sink, but the shower is a tub that is half the size of a normal tub and there are no doors or curtains for taking a shower. Also, there is no place for the shower head so you just hold it the entire time. It is strange. I got water all over the floor, but hey, at least I was clean!
          After breakfast I French braided Rose’s hair and then we walked to Mass at the Basilica of St. Francis. We walked through the upper basilica, down to the lower basilica and into the chapel where St. Francis is buried. We had Mass at his tomb and all two hundred of us were all crammed into this little chapel probably meant for seventy people. When Mass was over we broke up into groups for our walking tour. Sr. Miriam lead our tour back through the lower and upper basilica, to the abbey of St. Peter, to the Assisi version of Santa Maria Maggiore, to San Francesco Piccolino, to the Piazza Commune and finally to Chiesa Nuova. We saw the place where Francis was born, where his father imprisoned him, the room where his family kept their fabric, and the place where he gave all his possessions back to his father.
          Following the tour, we walked back to the hotel for lunch and then I spent some time in my room. I ended up taking a two hour nap because I was so tired and I could tell I was coming down with a cold.

          We had Mass for our Sunday obligation in the same church we had adoration in and it was so crowded. After the homily, we all received a Tao Cross which Father just blessed. When Mass was over we went back to our hotels for dinner and then I went straight to bed.

Rome/Assisi Day 8

          Friday morning we got to sleep in until 6:45! Breakfast was pretty good at Hotel dei Priori, but I liked the breakfast at Hotel Caravel better. After breakfast we headed over to Santa Chiara for Mass. I got there early so I could walk around. In Santa Chiara, there is the original San Damiano cross, the habits of St. Francis, St. Clare, and Brother Rufino, the shoe St. Francis wore that St. Clare made, an alb that St. Clare made, and some of St. Clare’s hair. St. Clare is also buried there so I got to spend some time in front of her tomb.
          After Mass we gathered outside for our walking tours. Sr. Sarah Rose led our group and she talked about St. Clare and St. Francis and some of their stories. She then let us go back in the church for some time to look around for those people who didn’t  get to look around before Mass. Then we walked down to San Damiano and got to see where St. Francis prayed. It was really beautiful.
          We had lunch back at the hotel and then some down time before the Pilgrimage Walk (aka hike) up to the Hermitage of St. Francis. It took about an hour and Cheris and I were practically dying by the time we made it up there. Some people did it barefoot as a sacrifice, but we figured since we’re not hiker’s, the hike itself was penance enough. When we got to the top, we saw St. Francis’ rock bed, the chapel he prayed in, and the hole where he threw the wolf down. We had to go through all these little doors that were super small. I felt bad for some of the big guys who were squeezing through. One guy was coming out the last door and when he stood up, he hit his head on this random wooden beam. He said, “I hate being tall” so Cheris and I asked him if he was okay and then we walked away because I could feel a fit of giggles coming on. We were trying to be quiet and prayerful, but it was one of those things that just sets you off laughing. It was terrible. We walked around outside on the little paths, and then made our way back down the hill with Rose. We were still having bursts of laughter every once in a while.

          Following such a long walk we of course needed some gelato so we stopped and I got chocolate and mint flavored. We came back to my room and hung out for a bit until they went shopping and I did some homework. We had dinner and afterwards Marissa and I went to the FOP. It was totally awesome because there were so many of us crowded into this little tiny church. I came back to go to bed around 9:30 and got nine hours of sleep. 

Rome/Assisi Day 7

          Thursday morning, we had breakfast at the hotel followed by check out and boarding the buses. It was about a three hour ride to Assisi and once we got to the foot of the hill, we all got out to visit the Basilica of Santa Maria degli Angeli where the real Portiuncula is. We visited all the side chapels, saw the rope that St. Francis wore, prayed in the Portiuncula, saw the rose garden St. Francis was in and then visited the gift shop before heading out. We were back on the buses 50 minutes later to drive up the hill to our hotels.
          We got off the buses and then took an escalator up the hill to the village where we walked for about 10 minutes to the hotel. We got in and went straight to lunch followed by check in to our rooms. We had about an hour and a half until Mass, so I decided to stay in my room and type some journal entries because I was too tired to walk around.
          Everyone was at Mass at the Cathedral of San Rufino and after Mass Fr. Ron gave a little talk pointing out the highlights of the church which included the baptismal font where John Paul II was baptized, the chapel where St. Francis used to spend the night in prayer, a little gallery of painting of John Paul II, and the room where St. Clare was born. Fr. Ron gave everyone an individual blessing, if they wanted, and after the blessing, I walked around the church.
          When we left the church, we stopped and looked in all the little shops on the way back to the hotel for dinner. They were so cute!  After dinner, most of the students were at adoration from 8:15-9:15 and after that most of us went back to our rooms and crashed.

Rome/Assisi Day 6

          Wednesday started at 4:49am. We were going to the papal audience, but in order to get good seats, we had to be the first through security and therefore the first in line. The metro started running at 5:30, so we left the hotel by 5:15 to catch the first metro. We were all so excited! We got off at Termini to switch Metro Lines and we were all running down the escalator because the train was waiting at the bottom. We literally threw ourselves onto the metro because we didn’t think we were going to fit. But like true dedicated FUS students, we crammed even more of us onto the metro. I literally could not move. If I wanted to, I probably could have picked up my feet and not fallen onto the floor. In any case, when we got off at Ottaviano we took off running. We slowed to a fast walk but we made it to the line that was already forming and we were pretty close to the front.
          After we got there at about 6:15, it kinda dawned on us that we had to wait for security to open up at 8:15. We were all standing in a huge group trying to make sure that other people didn’t infiltrate our group. There was this lady who was leaning against my back like I was a stone pillar. She just put her full weight on me and kept leaning. In any case, security opened up the outer gates and there was a mad dash to the metal detectors. There was so much pushing and shoving that my feet couldn’t keep up with my upper body because there were too many legs in front of me. The crowd basically just pushed me along.  So then we stood there for a little while longer until we actually went through security. Then it was a mad dash to get the best seats. Franciscan got up right against the rail and a few rows back so we were in a good spot.
          Everyone was so excited and we all just stood in our spot waiting and waiting. There was a Swiss guard in front of us that some of the girls took pictures with. Finally, at 10am, the pope came out in the pope mobile. Everyone was cheering and waving and clapping and waiting for him to come down our aisle. He turned the corner and drove down near our side. He was looking towards us when he drove past and then he stopped just past us to hold a baby. It was totally awesome!
          Then he kept driving around and eventually everyone sat down for the audience. He gave his talk and then all these bishops translated it into different languages. It was pretty amazing.
          After the audience, Rose, Hana, Shannon, and I walked around and they ended up buying shoes. I bought some scarves and then Shannon and I got gelato while Rose and Hana went into the Pantheon. Then we realized we needed to book it to make it to Mass on time so we practically ran to the metro while Shannon and I were eating gelato. We got on the metro and when we got off, Rose and Hana took off running to the Lateran while Shannon and I tried to find a bathroom. We came across and little pizzeria and the waiter let us use the bathroom. Then we ran across a few crazy busy streets (we still can’t believe we didn’t die in the process) and ran up to St. John Lateran for Mass.
          When Mass was over, I was taking a few pictures and then I looked over and saw Rebecca walking towards me! I knew she was going to be there but it was still so shocking and exciting to actually see her in Rome! It’s something we’ve always talked about doing and the fact that it was actually happening was so awesome! Rebecca and Sara took Anne Maria, Maggie, Maura, me and Shannon to Santa Scala which is the church of the holy stairs where there are the stairs that Jesus walked up when he was led to Pontius Pilate. We didn’t go up the stairs, but we looked and then left to go to Santa Croce in Gerusalemme which is the chapel of the Passion Relics. We saw a thorn from the crown of thorns, a nail from the crucifixion, splinters of the true cross, the finger of Thomas that went in Jesus’s side, and part of the cross beam of the good thief. After we visited that chapel, Shannon and I said good bye to Rebecca and Sara and walked around the corner where we took off running so that we could make it back to Santa Scala to go up the stairs before it closed. It was about a 7 minute walk, but we ran most of the way and by the time we got there we were out of breath and sweating. We made it in and started ascending the stairs on our knees like the other pilgrims. There was only about 5 other people, so we could go at our own pace. We had a handout with prayers to be said on each of the twenty eight steps so we prayed those prayers and then left.
          We went back to St. John Lateran to take pictures and then we went and saw the baptistery. Shannon and I decided to go out to dinner so we went back to the pizza place where we had used the bathroom and had pasta for dinner. We took the metro back to the hotel and packed up our stuff before heading to bed.

Rome/Assisi Day 5

          Tuesday morning I was up again before the sun came up so that we could have breakfast before Mass at Saints Cosmas and Damian. It was a tiny church so most of us were standing and sitting along the back and sides. After Mass, the priest gave a talk about the church and how the ground had risen up on one side so the church was slanted and they had to do construction to make it smaller so that it was safe. Following the talk, we all jumped on the Metro and met outside of a church to split up into groups for our walking tour. While we were waiting for everyone to get situated, Marie and I ended up buying scarves for 5 euro each. We talked the guy down from 10 euro and then Marie bought another one from a different guy for 4 euro.
          We started our tour with Mr. Pipp and during the tour we saw the church of St. Peter in chains where there are chains that held St. Peter in Jerusalem, Michelangelo’s Moses, and the bones of the seven Maccabee brothers. We also saw Santa Maria Maggiore the Bethlehem crypt where there is wood from the manger Jesus was laid in. We visited Our Lady of Perpetual help where the icon is of Our Lady, and we visited Santa Prassede where there are many relics and part of the column where Jesus scourged. We also saw the Colosseum, part of the Roman Forum, the Arch of Constantine, and a few other churches and monumental stone buildings.
          After the tour, Marie, Andrew, Marissa, Cheris, and I went to the Trevi Fountain and took pictures and threw coins in. Then we got pizza and walked really really fast to the Metro so that we would be on time for our Vatican museum tour. It was raining and so we got wet again and my bun got caught on three different umbrellas. That hurt.
          We made it to the Vatican Museum on time and then we started our tour. My headset died so I couldn’t hear what the tour guide was saying, so I tried to stay up near the front with her. We got to see so many statues, paintings, maps, and tapestries that tell us so much about how these people lived back then. We finished the tour in the Sistine Chapel and got to stay there for about twenty minutes. I could have stayed there forever. It was absolutely breath taking! I think it was definitely my favorite part of Rome.

          When we left the Sistine Chapel, I headed back to the hotel with Andrew and Marie. We hung out in my room and while I washed out my shoes and skirt that were still soaking wet and smelled like the metro from the other day, Marie called her mom and Andrew tried to decide who he is going to set me up with for Spring formal (what? that’s like six months away). It was entertaining to say the least. We went to dinner and afterwards, I went to adoration. When we got back and combed someone for lice and then went straight to bed! 

Rome/Assisi Day 4

Monday Morning we were up early again for breakfast at 6am and then Elizabeth and I headed out to get to St. Peter’s early. We got there early enough that we didn’t have to wait in security and once we got inside, it was still quiet. We walked around and visited all the side altar’s, took pictures, went to confession, and prayed by John Paul II’s tomb again. We had Mass at the Altar of St. Joseph and some other English speaking pilgrims joined us.
After Mass, Hana and I decided to go up to the top of St. Peter’s. We walked the whole way and met up with Mickey once we got to the top. It was really cool to go us so many stairs especially when they were slanted to the right and you could barely stand up straight. It was sprinkling when we left to go up to the top, but by the time we got up there, it was really raining. We got soaking wet (again!) but it was totally worth it. We hurried back down because Hana had a Scavi Tour and by the time we reached the bottom, the sun had come out.
I met up with Desiree and we decided to walk around and find a place to get some pizza for lunch. We found this fancy looking (but cheap) place and sat down for some cheese pizza. It was really good and the sauce on it was amazing. We went back to St. Peter’s square after we finished so that we could check in for our Scavi Tours.
The Scavi Tour was really remarkable because we got to see walls that were built hundreds of years ago, tombs and inscriptions from a while ago, pillars, paintings, and pottery. We also were able to see the bones of St. Peter. That was such an incredible experience. After our Scavi Tour we had a walking tour with Professor Larson. We started out by crossing the Angel’s bridge where each angel statue is depicted holding instruments of the Passion. We walked past the church where St. Philip Neri is buried (but the church was closed so we couldn’t go in), the tomb of St. Monica, and Santa Maria Sopra Minerva where St. Catherine of Sienna is buried. We also saw Bernini’s fountains, the market square, and the Pantheon.
We had dinner back at the hotel at 6:30 and I ended up eating with Professor Larson. It was a little intimidating at first because I had to eat this fancy meal with three forks, two glasses, and three courses with my history professor. She is so nice though so it all went totally fine. We all watched the time so I ended up making it to adoration for about 40 minutes. 

Rome/Assisi Day 3

Sunday morning I was up at 5:30 to shower before breakfast at 6am. I have decided that Rome has weird bathrooms because first off they have a bidet, second off they have a ginormous shower head in the ceiling and then a little one that you can take off of the wall that’s below your knees, third off their shower curtain/door only covers half the length of the tub so the water goes all over the floor when you shower, fourth off their toilet paper is all little squares, and fifth off the sink is literally like a ceramic bowl bolted to a table. Like, they pulled the sink itself out of the shelf and set it on top.
Anyways…we took the metro to St. Paul’s Outside the Walls for a brief tour/explanation followed by Mass in Italian. Of course we couldn’t understand a word they were saying, but it was nice all the same. After Mass, we took the Metro to St. Peter’s and stopped on our way to get Pizza for lunch. It didn’t have any cheese on it, but it was still really good. We made our way to St. Peter’s square to wait for the Angelus with Pope Francis. There was so much energy among the students. Finally, it was 12pm and the pope came out! Everyone went crazy and then he said something we couldn’t understand and prayed the angelus. It was so amazing to realize that we were right there praying with the Vicar of Christ on Earth! 
After the angelus, we were following the Newtons who were following Scott to get to the security line. It turned out that Scott was actually going to get some food so we had to go back in and get in line. We were in security for about 45 minutes and then we sat outside of St. Peter’s by the statue of St. Paul for about half an hour. We broke up into groups of about 25 and we all got headsets and then a seminarian from the Pontifical North American College gave us a tour of St. Peter’s. It is so big and so beautiful. We saw incorrupt saints and popes and were able to pray at the tomb of John Paul II. After the tour, we went and got gelato and then headed back to the hotel. It was raining and we all got soaking wet. Of course we were bombarded by the guys on the street selling umbrellas and rain ponchos but we didn’t want to buy from them.
After dinner we had adoration but because dinner ran so late by the time we got to adoration, they were saying the divine praises and leaving. We headed back to the hotel, I combed some hair for a few girls, and then got a good night’s rest.

Day 4
Monday Morning we were up early again for breakfast at 6am and then Elizabeth and I headed out to get to St. Peter’s early. We got there early enough that we didn’t have to wait in security and once we got inside, it was still quiet. We walked around and visited all the side altar’s, took pictures, went to confession, and prayed by John Paul II’s tomb again. We had Mass at the Altar of St. Joseph and some other English speaking pilgrims joined us.
After Mass, Hana and I decided to go up to the top of St. Peter’s. We walked the whole way and met up with Mickey once we got to the top. It was really cool to go us so many stairs especially when they were slanted to the right and you could barely stand up straight. It was sprinkling when we left to go up to the top, but by the time we got up there, it was really raining. We got soaking wet (again!) but it was totally worth it. We hurried back down because Hana had a Scavi Tour and by the time we reached the bottom, the sun had come out.
I met up with Desiree and we decided to walk around and find a place to get some pizza for lunch. We found this fancy looking (but cheap) place and sat down for some cheese pizza. It was really good and the sauce on it was amazing. We went back to St. Peter’s square after we finished so that we could check in for our Scavi Tours.
The Scavi Tour was really remarkable because we got to see walls that were built hundreds of years ago, tombs and inscriptions from a while ago, pillars, paintings, and pottery. We also were able to see the bones of St. Peter. That was such an incredible experience. After our Scavi Tour we had a walking tour with Professor Larson. We started out by crossing the Angel’s bridge where each angel statue is depicted holding instruments of the Passion. We walked past the church where St. Philip Neri is buried (but the church was closed so we couldn’t go in), the tomb of St. Monica, and Santa Maria Sopra Minerva where St. Catherine of Sienna is buried. We also saw Bernini’s fountains, the market square, and the Pantheon.
We had dinner back at the hotel at 6:30 and I ended up eating with Professor Larson. It was a little intimidating at first because I had to eat this fancy meal with three forks, two glasses, and three courses with my history professor. She is so nice though so it all went totally fine. We all watched the time so I ended up making it to adoration for about 40 minutes.

Rome/Assisi Day 2

At about 6:45 on Saturday, we stopped for an hour and got off to use the bathroom and get some breakfast. We were back on the road by 8am and I slept again until about 9:30.
We arrived at our hotel before 11am and got all checked in. Of the 15 hours we spent on the bus, I slept for about 12 hours. I think the combination of the Dramamine and pulling 18 hour days all week (and not sleeping in my bed) because of the lice epidemic completely knocked me out. At the hotel, I combed two heads and then got my head combed before we headed out to get some lunch. Elizabeth, Becca, and I stopped at the first pizza shop we came across (no worries, if we passed it, we would have come across about 15,000 more before we crossed the next street!) and got some food. I couldn’t remember the translation of metric weight to pounds, so I accidentally told the lady I wanted 100 pounds of cheese pizza. She knew what I meant though and gave a good size peace. It was so delicious! I literally could eat it every day and not get tired of it!
We ate our pizza on the way to the metro where we hopped on to go see some sights. We walked down the Circus Maximus and then we stopped at St. Anastasia. Then we went over and saw the outside of the Colosseum and the Arch of Constantine. It was so amazing to see these places that have been there for so long! We walked around the outside of the Roman Forum and went up and down some famous steps (but I can’t remember what they were called). We saw their tomb of the unknown soldier, and then visited the church of St. Martina. We decided to meander back towards the Metro and stopped at another church on the way.

When we got off the Metro, we went to the church Santa Galla for Mass with the FUS crew. It was totally awesome to be all together and starting our pilgrimage with Mass. After Mass, we came back to the Hotel Caravel for dinner. We had bread and lasagna, then roast beef and salad, and then some vanilla pudding/flan something-er-other for dessert. Mr. Pipp made some announcements then I headed up to my room for some sleep. 

Rome/Assisi Day 1

Our Rome/Assisi Pilgrimage started Friday morning with loads and loads of laundry to rid my clothes of lice. I spent the day doing homework, packing, and combing hair. Friday Night we boarded the bus at 7:30 (me and Elizabeth were first to get on!) and got in the back row. We made our selves at home and got ready for a 14 hour bus ride. I had already taken Dramamine because they said the first two hours would be driving through the curvy Alps which makes students who normally don’t get car sick, sick, and I was getting sleep just waiting to leave. They gave everybody bags to put over their seat if they had lice so we didn’t contaminate the bus, but they said they could double for car sickness bags. Once we left, they made a few announcements and then started the rosary. By the fourth decade, I could not keep my eyes open and I was sitting against the window thinking, “I’m so tired.”

I think I remember making it through the whole rosary and then I was out cold. I woke up just about every hour on the hour and shifted positions, but I slept for most of the way. I got off and got some air when we stopped after two hours, but then I fell asleep again as soon as we started moving. Elizabeth laid down on the floor, so I put my feet up on the seat next to me. It was so comfortable (well, not as comfortable as a bed, but better than the Poland trip). We stopped at a few more rest stops, but I slept through them. 

Four-Day Weekend

October 31-November 3 was a four day weekend because it was parents week. I stayed back but Marissa and Shannon went with their parents on the school trip. I spent Thursday doing homework and finishing up my papers.
Friday morning I did homework and after Mass for the feast of all saints and lunch, Rose and I headed out to hike Book Mountain. It was a nice leisurely hike up to the cross where we spent about 20 minutes taking pictures and admiring the view. We continued on our way up the mountain and we were doing pretty well until we hit the steep part. Then I nearly died. And I remembered why I don’t hike. It was a good thing I went with Rose because every few minutes I’d be like “Can we please stop here?” And she’d be like, “Let’s make it to the log just ahead.” We finally made it to the top and sat down on the bench up there. We spent about 45 minutes writing our names in the book, carving our initials into a tree, and finding our friend’s signatures and initials. We started our hike down and when we were about 5 minutes into our descent, I slipped and landed on my hands instead of my butt. It kinda hurt, but I didn’t think anything of it and continued on. I slipped again and caught myself and carried on with our descent. A few minutes later I noticed my hand was throbbing so I looked down and realized that I had a blood bubble about the size of my knuckle forming right where my thumb connects with my wrist. Rose, being the good nursing student that she is, instructed me to hold it above my heart so I made the rest of the hike down with my hand on my shoulder. We stopped again at the cross and took more pictures and ate Milka and finally made it back to the Kartause. We creek jumped (because that’s just the best way to end a sweaty hike!) in our jeans and tee shirts and came back and took showers.
After dinner, my hand was pretty sore so I started asking around for an ace bandage and finally found out that Stephen had one. I got my wrist wrapped up and then put some ice on it before going to bed. The next morning, Ben looked at it and determined that it probably wasn’t broken, but he wrapped it a different way. It felt a lot better, but it looked much worse. I couldn’t do anything because it was my right hand that was hurt, so I got pretty good at highlighting with my left hand! People were asking me what I did to my hand, and I was telling them, but Matt decided I needed a more interesting story. According to him, I was hiking down the mountain and I came across a monkey who had a banana attached to a string. I really wanted the banana and so I followed the monkey. When the monkey turned around and saw me, I tried to punch him so he wouldn't run away and I missed his face and punched a tree instead.
Sunday was uneventful until everyone started coming back to campus. We found out that some of the girls had head lice, and so we started checking other people who were finding out. It was looking like it was going to be a pretty bad situation because most of the people we were checking had it. I ended up shaving Andrew and David’s heads because they wanted to avoid it. When I got back to my room, Shannon and Marissa came back and they were both car sick/have a gluten reaction from eating gluten, so Shannon was throwing up and Marissa was super nauseous. I spent the night on the floor of Becca, Mickayla, and Anne’s room and the next morning, Shannon was still having a reaction to the gluten. All week, people kept coming and knocking on my door and Cheris’ door to get checked or have their hair combed, so we spent the rest of the week combing and checking hair in between classes. I had overheard people saying that they were too embarrassed to get checked, didn’t want to deal with it in Rome (which people were leaving for in a few days), had checked themselves, or had their boyfriend check them. Cheris and I went to Mr. Pipp and told him he needed to make it mandatory that everyone get checked and that we would be available from 6-8pm in the Francis Room to check people. Signs went up and people all came to get checked. It was just great to meet people and be like, “So when was the last time you washed your hair? Do you have dandruff? Do you have products in your hair?” Ya know, typical questions you ask people when you first meet them. I had so many different reactions from so many people such as laughing, not caring, nearly passing out, or arguing with me that it was just dandruff. I even had people come up to me the next day to apologize for arguing with me…honestly, I didn’t even remember that I had checked them because I had looked at so many heads. All in all, we had 84 cases of lice. We were up every night checking and combing until 12:30am ish, and by the time people started leaving for Rome, we finally had some time to be by ourselves.
The funny part for me was that I was in confession the Tuesday before it all started and Father asked me what I thought God wanted me to work on. I was like, “I think patience and kindness towards others and really just taking the time to sit down and talk with people because I like to be busy so I never really just sit and talk. I’m always moving.” Well, ask and you shall receive! I had hours on end of stand talking to people and getting to know them as I combed through their hair.

My theory is that the lice came from the states either from someone who had them over the summer and wasn’t diligent enough with the last round of their treatment, and they had it and they didn’t know it. In the process of everyone hugging everyone who they haven’t seen all summer, sharing clothes while traveling, and sitting on the same couches as everyone else, it just got passed around. By the time people started noticing they had a bad case, it was right around the two month mark which is usually when people start having symptoms. It could have come from anywhere, but the States seems to make the most sense. 

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Second Weekend in Gaming

The weekend of October 25-27 I decided to stay back because I needed to catch up on sleep lost over ten day followed by being sick and I had two papers to write. I went to bed at 8pm on Thursday night and didn’t wake up until 7am the next morning. It was wonderful! I sat up and started writing my Nursing Philosophy and almost missed breakfast because I was on such a role defining Person and Health. After breakfast I put my pajamas back on and got back in bed and kept writing about Environment and Nursing. I was late for Mass because I lost track of the time and at 11:55am realized Mass started in ten minutes and I wasn’t dressed and hadn’t brushed my hair.
After lunch, Hana, Cheris, Rose and I went for a walk behind the Kartause and did some photo shoots of each other in sunlight with the pretty fall colors behind us. It was a perfect day because the sunlight was warm but the air was crisp and refreshing. I came back to my room, put my pajamas back on and got back in bed to keep writing my Nursing Philosophy. I took a fifteen minute nap and then started writing my term paper for Human Person.
I went to dinner with Rose and Cheris and then Cheris and I stopped by the RD office to ask Scott if we could have a bonfire. He said he would set the wood out for us at 7:30 so we could have our fire at 8pm. By the time Cheris, Hana, Rose and I got out there, Scott and Matt had already started the fire so they hung out with us while some of us had chocolate or peach wine. Angela and Amelia joined us and when Scott left, we all sat up on the stone wall and sang songs and told creepy stories. It was a perfect night for a bonfire because the air was cool but the fire was blazing hot and there was a thick mist that slowly descended on the Kartause.   
Saturday morning I was up at 7:30 to go to breakfast in order to make communion fast for 9am Mass. I did homework the rest of the morning until lunch and then did homework all afternoon. After dinner I did a little more homework and then tried to go to sleep at 8:30. Rose and Cheris came and knocked on my door around 8:45 to invite me to eat apple pie with them and the LCI students. It was super delicious! I got back to bed around 9:30, but with the EU time change, it was really 8:30.
Sunday morning I was up at 6:30 but it felt like 7:30 because it was already light out. I did homework until 11 when I had to go meet Shannon’s mom and grandma who were coming in with some other parents. I ended up handing out roses to all the moms who came. After brunch I did homework until Mass at 3:00. When Mass was over, Rose, Hana, and Cheris went over to the creek with me so I could jump in since I hadn’t creek jumped yet. It was really cold but it was totally worth it! Hana and Cheris also jumped in and we called in the Princess Jump because we were all in our Sunday clothes. 
When Marissa came back from her travels, we tried to go find her parents. We looked for them in the Keller and then we went to the hotel desk to call their room. No one was there, so we had to figure this out on our own. It was a good thing we had both read Nancy Drew growing because we knew what to do in this situation. One of us watched the door to the Keller while the other one stood on tip toe to look at the room sheet that was laying on top of the desk. We found their last name and room number (see, recreational reading does pay off!) and then went up to their room. They weren't there, so we went and ate in the Mensa and then went back to check the Keller. We found them eating with another couple so we sat with them an visited. It was quite a nice evening.

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Lourdes Thoughts

Going to Lourdes for ten-day was one of the best experiences of my life. It definitely changed my life to see the suffering of other and to see the joy they have in that suffering. It was so inspirational to work with my peers and see their selfless love and willingness to serve. Watching Chuy and Justin play with Makayla every evening and looking at her while they hung on her every word was precious. Seeing the way Mike and Joseph bonded with Gabe and took care of his every need was beautiful. Watching Andrew and Casey anticipate Fr. Menei’s needs to make sure he was able to celebrate or concelebrate Mass from his wheelchair was unbelievable. The way that Grace so tenderly cared for Janet and the love she showed her made me want to cry. Seeing Mary Grace and Cecelia assist Joan and Judy was hysterical because by the end of the week you could see that they knew what was coming and whether it was a word they said that would remind the ladies of a song or a story they had probably heard thirteen times already, they still listened with an eager smile and attentiveness. Being able to watch Ben, Chuy, and Peter waiting to assist anyone with wheelchairs was very special and watching the way Peter respectfully called each of the female pilgrims Miss so-and-so was absolutely inspiring. Watching Joanie push her little cart around and to the pilgrims drinks, snacks, and blankets with Becca, Angela, and Marissa, Melanie was so sweet because it showed that even the smallest things can mean a lot to people. Seeing how Keri was nervous about going into the baths but then eagerly volunteering to take a shift in the baths was really amazing. Turning around and always seeing Shannon smiling and offering to do anything always made my day and seeing Domi and Grace on the cleaning crew in their green aprons always made me smile.
One of the things that struck me most about this week was how everyone was able to give so completely and willingly of themselves. It’s like St. Bernadette digging for the spring. The students gave and gave and gave of themselves and then when you thought they couldn’t give anymore, they dug a little deeper and found some more to give just like when St. Bernadette was digging and digging for the clean water.

People have always told me that when you go on a mission trip, you go into the trip thinking you have so much to give but you come out of the mission having received more that you ever could have given. I feel this way about the Lourdes mission in that I gave all that I had, but what I gave is nothing in comparison to what the pilgrims gave me. The lessons they taught me in how to love and how to open up and trust people are lessons that I will carry with me for the rest of my life. I feel so blest to have had this opportunity. 

Lourdes - Day 9

Saturday morning I was up at 4:30am so that I could finish packing and catch a taxi at 5:30. We had our last French breakfast (thank goodness!) and then Angela, Mike, Fr. Matt, and I all left in the taxi. We waited at the airport for a few hours and then got ready to board our plane. I was falling asleep while we were waiting at the boarding gate so once we got on the plane and took off, I fell asleep. I kept jerking awake because I guess my body still thought it had to stay awake. We landed in London and then we had to go through immigration. The officer asked me a zillion questions and then asked Angela and Mike one question and stamped their passports. He asked me a few more questions and I was convinced that he wasn't going to let me through, but then he stamped my boarding pass and let us go. We had a four hour layover so we ate at the same café we sat at during our last layover.
Our last flight was fifteen minutes early which gave us enough time to get a taxi and make it to the train station on time. We purchased our tickets and boarded the train but when the ticket collector came around, she told us we had the wrong tickets. We were on the right train, but we had bought an OBB ticket not a Wien Westbanhof ticket. None of us had known there was a difference, but she was so nice and explained our options to us and then sold us a ticket to stay on the train.
There was a little boy on the seat in front of me and he was so adorable. I couldn’t get him to smile at me but after about half an hour, he started playing with me through his reflection in the window. By the time we reached our station, he was laughing and giggling and finally smiling at me! It was too cute and his parents got a kick out of it too.

All the rest of our connections went smoothly and we finally arrived back in Gaming at 9:44pm. We were so happy to be back safe and sound! 

Lourdes - Day 8

Friday was our last day with the Pilgrims. We were up again at 5:30 to get ready and eat to be over to help them at 6:45. The student volunteers had to hurry the pilgrims along because we were going to grotto Mass at 8:30. We got everyone situated in their wheelchairs and we lined them up just to the side of the altar in the grotto. It was a cool, crisp morning and we were all bundled up. Our priests concelebrated the Mass and the student volunteers sang, read, and served Mass. Afterwards we were able to walk behind the altar and touch the grotto rock and see the spring where Bernadette dug in the ground.
I left Liz with Mark so that I could go to the last medical meeting. Nurse Carol and nurse JoAnn shared their career path stories with us and it was really amazing to hear all the things they have done throughout their career. I had a chance to talk to nurse JoAnn afterwards and she was so sweet, kind, and encouraging. I will definitely carry her words of advice with me throughout my career about standing up for life, the patient’s beliefs, and my own beliefs even if people don’t agree with me.
After the medical meeting I volunteered to help Fran finish the water project. North American Lourdes Volunteers ships Lourdes water to their office in Syracuse to use during virtual pilgrimages and to give away to people. During the week, they guys had filled 36 jugs of water that each weighed about 66 pounds. They had then put nine on a wooden palate and wrapped them all together in plastic wrap to get them ready for shipment. Fran and I had to put the shipping labels on top and put more plastic wrap on top to keep the labels in place. It took a lot of work because we had this clumsy huge roll of sticky plastic that we were maneuvering around between the palates. We finished up just in time for lunch and headed over to the caf.
When I came back from lunch, I played with Makayla for a while. We ran around and spun in circles, she played on her mom’s phone on my lap, we went and found Chuy, and we watched out the window for butterflies. It was so much fun to speld time with a cute little girl. When the rest of the pilgrims finished lunch they all had a departure meeting. Everyone was given a chance to share something of their experience during the week and there were many stories from the pilgrims of how wonderful they thought the volunteers were. Most of the volunteers thanked the pilgrims for giving us the opportunity to serve them. It was really inspiring to hear everyone thanking everyone else for everything they had taught them.
After the departure meeting we all got ready to go out to the grotto. We stopped by the candles and were given the opportunity to meet St. Bernadette’s great, great, great, great, great, great nephew. He doesn’t meet with anyone and no one knows he works the candles except for North American Lourdes Volunteers so it was a very special privilege to meet him. He is deaf, but he has St. Bernadette’s eyes.
We continued on our way and went over to the stations of the cross that were recently put in. They are large stone carvings and they are beautiful in the sunlight. We brought all the pilgrims in front of each station and Fr. Menei, Fr. Matt, and Fr. Walter all took turns leading the stations. We sang a praise and worship song at the end and then slowly meandered by the river back to the Accueil.
For dinner, some of the pilgrims ate at the Accueil and some ate at restaurants in town. After I finished cleaning up, Hana and I headed back to Ave Maria so she could get the friendship bracelets she had made for the pilgrims. We stopped and got raspberry ice cream on the way back to the Accueil and made it back just in time to scoot through the rosary procession before they blocked it off.

It was time to say goodbye to the pilgrims and adult volunteers. We had all grown so close over the past week and knew so much about each other that no one wanted to leave. Hana was so sweet as she gave each pilgrim a bracelet and I went around with her to say good bye. They were all packing but of course they all stopped to say goodbye. We had a great laugh with Paz, Ms. Goldman, Linda, and Grace the kitchen volunteers when they wanted to take our pictures. I was laughing so hard I was crying. I got to say goodbye to Gabe and take a picture with him and then he wanted another hug. He was so precious. Unfortunately I didn’t get to say goodbye to his Aunt Liz, but I left a message with Pam for her. After we said all our goodbyes, Hana and I picked up the sack lunches for the student volunteers and headed back to Ave Maria. 

Lourdes - Day 7

Thursday morning we were up early to assist the pilgrims as usual. When everyone had eaten breakfast, we headed out for a tour of town to visit some of the places Bernadette had lived. We stopped at a little tiny museum and saw a model of what the town used to look like, something Bernadette had embroidered, her handwriting, and her shoes. Then we headed into town and saw the mill their family lived at when they were better off and the jail they moved to when they were evicted from their mill. We also showed the pilgrims door where St. Bernadette ran to when she was told by Our Lady, “I am the Immaculate Conception”.
After the tour Liz, Gabe, Mike, Joseph and I went made our way back to the Accueil and stopped at a little shop so Liz and Gabe could get rosaries and postcards. We brought them back for lunch and then the pilgrims rested in the early afternoon.
While they were resting, Marlene, the kitchen staff, and the second shift for lunch (“the guys”) had set up a little “thank you tea” for the student volunteers. We were served bread and two kinds of cheeses that Bernadette would have eaten and then Marlene told us the proper way to make a cup of tea:
1) pour boiling water into a cup to heat the cup, then dump out
2) pour boiling water into a cup and place tea bag in water – do not squeeze
3) remove tea bag without squeezing
4) place sugar cubes in and let them dissolve – do not stir until dissolved
5) add milk and stir
6) enjoy!
The tea time was quiet enjoyable…mostly because I sat with Gabe. The cheese was gross though.
After tea time, the pilgrims prepared to go to Mass with an Anointing of the Sick Service. It was a Mass just for us in the St. Joseph’s Chapel and it was so beautiful to see the pilgrims line up for the anointing of the sick. Most of the student volunteers were crying because it was so beautiful. Following Mass, we lined up two by two for the Eucharistic Procession. It started outside across the river from the grotto and wound its way around to the underground basilica. It was so powerful to see the sick pilgrims get down on their knees to beg God for a miracle and thank him for answering their prayers.

After dinner, there was a talent show for the entertainment of all present. For Act I, the students sang songs, did skits and told jokes. Some of the pilgrims even got up and sang or told stories. A group of French people came in and they sang some African songs and had their faces painted black. Apparently each year they dress as a different nationality and sing songs for North American Lourdes Volunteers. Then we had Act II which was basically an open floor for any impromptu talents. It was great fun and it provided a lot of laughs. After the talent show, there was a departure meeting for the students before we had to hurry back to Ave Maria before the doors locked at midnight.

Lourdes - Day 6

Early Wednesday morning the medical students were up early again to assist the pilgrims in getting ready for the day. When all the pilgrims had eaten and were seated comfortably in wheelchairs, we headed off two by two to the underground basilica for the international Mass. The basilica was built in the shape of Noah’s ark and it was massive. It was so weird to stand there and actually get a visual of just how big Noah’s ark was. The Mass itself reminded me of the Vigil Mass for the March for Life because at this Mass there were so many priests and people present.
Following Mass we all exited and had a group picture taken in front of the rosary basilica. The pilgrims were able to visit the grotto again for a little bit, but then they had to go back for lunch. After lunch the pilgrims prepared for their visit to the Piscines. Fran gave a talk about what they could expect and none of them hesitated at all when she asked who would like to go and who would prefer to stay.
The pilgrims visit to the Piscines was one of the most beautiful things I experienced all week. Watching the eagerness on their faces even as some of them were lifted onto broncardiae was so inspiring. It was also very emotional because one of the pilgrims had a tender shoulder and while she was being lifted on to the broncardiae, her shoulder was bumped and she started crying. Her assigned student volunteer tried to comfort her, but the doctor took over because the student was crying so hard. Even though the pilgrim was in so much pain, she was still very eager to go into the baths.
I stayed with Liz and pushed her wheelchair into the room where people changed and then the ladies working the Piscines took over while I undressed. Some of our students were working in the Piscines that afternoon and Ginny happened to be in the room we were in. The head lady asked if I spoke English and then directed me to a chair where Ginny would hold up the blue sheet for me. It was really special to have a friend there helping you. Liz had her turn in the bath and she came out smiling. She was so happy! The ladies switched jobs after Liz went in so Ginny was watching in the actual room where the water was when I had my bath. The water didn’t seem as cold this time, but it was still very chilly. The ladies had me sit down on my own rather than lowering me down and pulling me up. I was so blessed to have the opportunity to visit the baths twice. I met Liz outside and we prayed the rosary together with Desiree and another pilgrim while Liz waited for her nephew Gabriel. When he came out, we all went and visited the grotto and then Liz had me take her to the English confession building. I waited outside for her and when Liz and Gabe were ready, Mike, nurse Irene and I took them up to the Crypt where there was adoration and a relic of St. Bernadette. The crypt was in between the rosary basilica and the Immaculate conception basilica but instead of taking the huge ramp up, we took a smaller side path.
We stayed at adoration for about twenty minutes when Gabe started getting sleepy. When we got to the door, we noticed it was sprinkling out and we didn’t have any umbrellas or rain jackets. Liz didn’t mind the rain because she “wanted as much water from Lourdes as she could get” and I gave my rain jacket to Gabe. We brought them back for dinner and the rain pretty much held off while we were walking outside.

After dinner the pilgrims prepared to go to the rosary procession. We lined up two by two again and we were at the head of the procession right behind the Mary statue. Eight of our male student volunteers were privileged to be able to take turns carrying the statue while four of our female student volunteers carried candles near the statue. Apparently it has been five years since Franciscan Students have carried the statue. All the pilgrims had candles and you could hear how strongly they were praying the rosary. The pilgrims in wheelchairs were lined up in front of the basilica while the rest of the procession would around behind us. At the end of the rosary procession Liz and I went to the grotto and spent some time there. The grotto is absolutely beautiful after dark. We stopped at the taps before we went back to the Accueil so Liz could wash and drink the Lourdes water again. 

Lourdes - Day 5

Tuesday Morning I was up at 5:30 to shower and get ready to head out to help the pilgrims with their morning routines. My pilgrim didn’t need any assistance so I stood outside her door so I could walk her to breakfast. After breakfast, we escorted the pilgrims upstairs for their orientation meeting. We all had to say our name, where we were from and the students said their major and the pilgrims said why they were here. It was really inspiring to hear others stories of why they came to Lourdes and how long it took them to get here.
After the meeting, Pam took the medical students to register with the medical bureau and they we went to lunch. After lunch, I happened to be sitting in the hall playing with Makayla and Carol the nurse came out and asked for four nursing students. I volunteered and she brought us into their meeting about any medical issues that had come up during the past twenty-four hours. It was very interesting to hear the doctors and nurses communicate.
When the meeting was finished, we assisted the pilgrims to the ground floor (which was actually the zero level) and taught them wheelchair, watour, and chaise bleue safety. We got everybody situated and then we headed out two by two to visit the taps and the grotto. All week I was paired with Liz so I pushed her wheelchair or pulled her watour which was such a beautiful way to serve her. We stopped across the river from the grotto and Marlene (the president of North American Lourdes Volunteers) gave a talk about St. Bernadette and her life. We all had Voxes and ear buds so we could all hear without Marlene shouting. After her talk, the pilgrims all washed at the water taps and drank of the water and then we made our way over to the grotto. For many of them it was their first time visiting the grotto and it was a memorable experience to watch their faces when they saw the grotto and the statue.
After spending some time in the grotto, our group made our way over to the St. Joseph chapel which was reserved for us for Mass, but another group was just beginning Mass so Marlene directed us all to the Immaculate Conception Basilica. We had to push the pilgrims up this huge ramp because the basilica was on the top of two other basilicas so we had two people for each wheelchair and three people for each watour. We made it up to the top and got everyone situated inside so Mass could start. It was a beautiful Basilica and it had windows depicting each of the apparitions of the Blessed Mother to Bernadette.

Dinner was served for the Pilgrims back in the Accueil and I was on dinner clean up again. I stayed around to help out with odd jobs and visit with the pilgrims and then Cecelia and I decided to go to the rosary procession which had already started. We found some of our pilgrims and volunteers so we joined them during the third mystery. We wound our way back and forth with the rest of the procession in front of the rosary basilica and sang and prayed the decades of the rosary. It was so beautiful. We helped the pilgrims back to the Accueil and then made our way back to the Ave Maria. 

Lourdes - Day 4

Everyone was up early again on Monday for French breakfast! We headed over to the Accueil and broke up into our small groups to learn more about our jobs. We had a medical meeting with nurse Carol and she discussed the patient pilgrims and their medical needs with us. It was very informational. We all had lunch and then we started setting up for the Pilgrims. We went to the Guadalupe house and when we got there, we waited outside for a few minutes. Suddenly Rose started running through the group saying “I am the Immaculate Conception!”  She ran up to this door and knocked on it and Pat came around the corner and was pretending to be the priest who didn’t believe Bernadette. The door that Rose had knocked on was the same door that Bernadette ran to and knocked on to tell the priest that the lady had said “I am the Immaculate Conception.”
We went into the Guadalupe house and brought out suit cases, boxes, bags, chairs and carts to bring to the Accueil. We looked like the craziest group of people walking through the streets of Lourdes with suit cases, bulging bags, grocery carts, and trays. When we brought it all to the Accueil, we had to sort it out and put it all away. Everyone was helping so the process went rather quickly which was great because the Pilgrims were arriving around 4pm.
All the volunteers were waiting outside with wheelchairs and signs and we were practicing our welcome sing. There was so much excitement amongst the students that I don’t think we could have been more excited. The bus finally pulled up and we all started waving and clapping and singing Salve Regina! We brought wheelchairs over and greeted the pilgrims as they came off the buses. The girls brought the pilgrims to their rooms and the guys brought the luggage up and delivered it to everyone. We all made our way upstairs for Mass in chapel that John Paul II celebrated Mass in when he stayed in Lourdes. At the beginning of Mass, the volunteers all made their oath of service and received a pin. It was a beautiful little ceremony.

A few of us left Mass early to set up for dinner and then pilgrims came down to eat. I headed off to eat in the caf so I could be back for my dinner clean up shift. We cleared tables, washed tables, and swept…basically a bus person job! I stayed around until about 10:30 to help with random jobs and to deliver messages to some of the nurses. It was a long day but we were all so happy the pilgrims had finally arrived. 

Lourdes - Day 3

Sunday morning we had a French breakfast that consisted of…bread. That’s it. Bread, butter, and jelly. Oh, and coffee, hot milk, hot chocolate, or tea. We went to Mass and then headed off to an orientation meeting. We learned about what we were going to be doing throughout the week and what jobs we had been assigned to. After the meeting we had lunch and then Shannon and I went into the rosary basilica to pray and look at the mosaics of the mysteries of the rosary. We headed back for some more meetings and we had formation which consisted of learning proper terminology for the week such as “pilgrim” not “patient”, “service” not “work” and so on.
Fran then shared with us what an experience in the Piscines would be like because our group had an appointment at 3pm. We walked over and all quietly prepared ourselves. We went in and were split up among the different rooms to wait our turn. When I went in the head lady was so sweet. She didn’t really speak English but I knew what she was trying to tell me because Fran had told us what she would say. She told me to give my heart to Mary and then pointed for me to walk down the steps. The water was up to me knees and it was freezing cold. I kissed the statue of Our Lady and then the girls tipped me back into the water and pulled me back up. The water was so freezing cold I couldn’t even breathe. They asked me if I was okay and I told them I was. I went back to get dressed pulled all my clothes on over my wet body. I wasn’t cold at all even though I had just been dipped in icy cold water but I went and stood in the sunshine outside with everyone else. It was a very special experience to be able to take a bath in the water.

We all walked over and visited the grotto and then we were free to do whatever we wanted. I went with Desiree to the Adoration chapel and we spent some time in there. After dinner, we had wheel chair training 101 where we learned how to safely help a pilgrim into a wheelchair, watour, chaise bleue, and broncardiae. We also learned how to maneuver them and when we would be using them. We were all very tired so we headed back to the Ave Maria and got a good night sleep. 

Lourdes - Day 2

Early Saturday morning, we boarded our plane in the dark and took off for Lourdes. We landed in Lourdes around 9:30 and we were so happy to finally be near our destination. Everything was in French (duh!) so we were so confused and couldn’t read or understand anything. We waited for Mike and asked him his plans and he said he didn’t know what he was going to do so we all decided to try to find a map so we could walk to Ave Maria – the place we were staying that houses Lourdes Volunteers. We couldn’t find a map anywhere so this sweet old lady who spoke a little English was able to tell us that it was a 45 minute bus ride and we could catch the bus for 2 Euro right outside the door. We went down the stairs and waited an hour for the bus. The bus dropped us off at the train station after 20 minutes and we had directions from Pam to walk to Ave Maria. I led the way and it was so easy because the directions were so detailed. We got to the Ave Maria but couldn’t check in because it was only 11:30ish so Mike, Angela, and I walked around the little town.
On our walk through town we came across a fort, a market, and a gazillion little shops that all sold the same everything! We also came across a graveyard where Bernadette’s family and friends were buried. We saw the Soubirous Family grave and the Abadie family grave which was really special. After we visited their graves we went into the center of town and found a shop that had cheap crepes. Mine had jelly on them and they were pretty good.
After our lunch we walked through the shops to find the cheapest little water bottles for Lourdes water and we looked for rosaries. We ran into the first group of our friends and they told us of their adventures in Paris and the train station. They also told us that everyone else was coming in at 11:30pm and that Pam was going to meet them there later. Mike, Angela, and I walked over to Ave Maria and checked in and then I met up with some of the other girls to walk around. I had two croissants that were so flaky and delicious! I went back to Ave Maria to wait for Pam who was supposed to me coming in at 3:30, but when she wasn’t there at 4:10, I decided to go walk with the other girls because I was getting sleepy. I was sitting in the lobby waiting for Pam and I looked at the time and it was 4:08. Suddenly I jerked awake and looked at the clock to see how long I had been sleeping for. It was still 4:08 so I was good go!
Pam showed up at 5:00 and the group of about ten of us went to Mass with her. After Mass we walked down the path that Bernadette used to take to get to the grotto. The path zig-zags down the side of the mountain in the shape of the letter M. After we walked down the path, we made our way over to the grotto. It was so beautiful and peaceful. There was a big event where Pope Francis was consecrating the world to the Immaculate Heart so there were big screens set up in the grotto so people could watch it.
After we spent some time in the grotto we went to dinner in the St. Michael cafeteria. We got to choose a salad, a cheese, and dessert, and the main dish. Throughout the week there were some interesting options for salads ranging from green salad, to hardboiled eggs, to coleslaw, to fish, to grapefruit. Cheese choice was pudding, a slice of swiss cheese, cream cheese, brie cheese, or yogurt. The desserts were very delicious and we could choose from fruit, chocolate and cappuccino mousse, pudding, apple tart, and flan. There were always two options for the main course and we had chicken, fish, chicken cordon bleu, grilled cheese and ham, quiche, and meatballs. They also served intestines but Pam told us not to eat it…not that I would have tried it. The also served pasta or rice and cooked veggies.
After dinner, people hung out and walked around some more. We tried to go to the rosary procession but they weren’t having one because of the consecration. Most people headed to bed around 10:30, but I stayed up with a few others to walk to the train station with Pam. She had received a text that said the train was 30 minutes late, so Pam took Grace G, Mike, Angela, Fran and me out for hot chocolate with whipped cream. It was so good! We walked the 15 minute walk to the train station and everyone was waiting there for us. I got my bag from Marissa and we all walked back to Ave Maria. There were boxed lunches waiting for all of them because they had missed dinner so we went over a few things with them and then I headed up to bed.
By the time I made it up to my room, it was 1am. I had been awake for 27 hours straight! I was so ready to brush my teeth and go to bed especially since we had to be up for breakfast at 7:30 the next morning.