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Junior Students Excited for New Pilgrimage Opportunity

Excitement filled the air when ten Roger Bacon High School students learned that they had been chosen for a spiritual journey of a lifetime. From April 10 through April 16, 2023 these ten juniors will participate in a pilgrimage to the California Missions of San Francisco, Carmel, and Monterey which were established by St. Junipero Serra, a Franciscan priest of the 17th century.

While lodging at the San Damiano Retreat Center as their home base, students will embark each day on a different journey. The visits include the historical background of each location, daily Mass, and spiritual development activities. The locations include Mission Santa Clara, Mission San Jose, Mission San Carlos Borromeo in Carmel, and Mission San Francisco (Dolores). The pilgrims will also visit the burial site of St. Junipero Serra. The mission churches of San Francisco offer students a look at the magnificent art and architecture of the time period. The Saint Francis of Assisi Shrine Church in North Beach includes a life-size replica of the Porziuncola in Assisi, Italy. This tiny church in Assisi was a primary prayer location for St. Francis and his followers. According to pilgrim Marissa Stevens, “This trip will allow me to grow in my faith in a different environment and local culture.”

No visit to this scenic area of California is complete without the pilgrims having some recreational time. The Monterey Bay Aquarium, dinner at Fisherman’s Wharf, prayers around a bonfire on a San Francisco beach, a walk across the Golden Gate Bridge, and a bus ride to the Presidio and Crissy Field are on the agenda. The last day of the pilgrimage combines the beauty of nature seen in the gigantic redwoods of Yosemite National Park with outdoor Mass at a “secret” breathtaking location, reflection time, a hike, and a picnic lunch. Joey Lee, one of the pilgrims said, “On this pilgrimage, I’m most excited to create new friendships and experience the beauty of nature.”

Fr. Christopher Iwancio, an experienced spiritual leader who has also led the Roger Bacon Assisi Scholars pilgrimage in Rome and Assisi, Italy will show the students how Catholicism developed on the American west coast under the influence of Junipero Serra. Working with Fr. Christopher will be two Roger Bacon chaperones who are experienced travelers, educators, and student advocates -- Fr. Mark Hudak, OFM and Ms. Pam Rosfeld, Director of Guidance. According to Mr. Steve Schad, Principal of Roger Bacon High School, “We are excited to be able to share our Franciscan charism with our students in this innovative pilgrimage program. I am proud of the continued investment that Roger Bacon makes in our students and the lifelong impact programs such as this will have.”

For some of the students, this pilgrimage represent the longest distance they have travelled from home, and for some, it is their first airplane flight. As they approach graduation in 2024, this trip will give these current juniors an opportunity to grow in their faith, nurture friendships, and develop the increased independence that they will need in college and the workplace. This all-expenses paid pilgrimage also relieves them and their parents of any financial concerns associated with this outstanding growth experience.