On Sunday, September 29th, we had the grace to make a pilgrimage to the shrine dedicated to St. Thérèse of the Child Jesus in Verona, run by the Discalced Carmelite Fathers.
At 8:30 am, after entrusting ourselves to Our Blessed Mother and asking her to be with us throughout the whole trip, we left for Verona. The group was made up of ten girls ages 11-13 years-old and four Servant Sisters, ready to receive a rain of graces that St. Thérèse was preparing to give us. Visiting a shrine is always a grace because Our Lord and Our Blessed Mother make themselves present in a special way. On this occasion, St. Thérèse joined them.
Several girls began the pilgrimage with an examination of conscience in order to make a good Confession and prepare themselves to receive the Eucharist. After Mass, we went on a guided tour of the shrine and heard a brief summary of St. Thérèse’s life. The girls enjoyed listening and they learned a lot. Some of the examples of her relationship with God really helped them. At lunchtime, Divine Providence showed us a park where we could eat and play.
The second part of our pilgrimage took place in Vicenza where a family from the US joined us: Matthew and two of his daughters, Elizabeth and Cecilia, who live on the military base in Vicenza. In Vicenza Giulia Sudrio and her family welcomed us into their home. We were eager to learn about the life of Caterina Maria Sudrio, a girl who was born in 2006 in Benevento. At just 8 years old, Our Lord saw that her heart was full of love for her neighbor and united to Him that He took her to Heaven, where she ardently desired to go. Caterina’s parents and siblings offered us a snack then talked to us about Caterina Maria. They showed us pictures and videos of her so we could get to know her happy personality better. In 2014, Caterina Maria died of a brain tumor. During her illness she was an example of joy, patience and selflessness. She always thought about her family and those around her and proved to be very mature in her Faith and in her relationship with Jesus. He was the motor that drove her to live her sickness serenely and to do good works. She offered everything for the Pope, whom she called “Sweet Christ on earth,” like St. Catherine of Siena. She visited Pope Francis during an audience and received his blessing.
One of Caterina’s favorite songs that she always sang is from the movie about Saint Philip Neri: I Prefer Heaven (Italian: Preferisco il Paradiso). We visited the room where she underwent her sickness and passed from this world to her encounter with Jesus. Caterina Maria died in Vicenza on July 26, 2014. One of the last things she said to her dad was, “Dad, tell mom not to cry, because I’m going to Heaven.”
After listening to such an inspiring testimony, Giulia took us to her sister Caterina’s tomb to sing and pray there. We asked Caterina to intercede for all of us and for the youth so that they may have a strong relationship with Jesus, be generous toward God and live their Faith authentically in the world.
“The Lord has done great things for us; we are glad” (Psalm 126). We returned home with happy hearts and thanking God for what He had done in our souls. On the ride back, the girls reflected about what had impressed them and the examples of holiness in St. Thérèse and Caterina Maria.