Pilgrimage with girls to Georgia (USA), from December 26th-29th, 2016.
The day after Christmas, the Servant Sisters in Jacksonville, Florida along with a group of nine girls, set out for Georgia to spend some time on a pilgrimage. We thought that no one would sign up since all of the girls that we invited already had other things to do. Should we cancel the trip? We decided to invite a few more girls and at the last minute, our Blessed Mother pulled some strings and chose the ones she herself wanted to come. From the start, we told the girls that they were there thanks to Our Lady, and that she had brought them in order to speak to their hearts. We told them to take advantage of the time and to make the most of this opportunity.
Thanks be to God, they did! We sang songs, talked, played games… during the entire car ride until we arrived at our destination in Georgia. The first night, we ate dinner and went right to bed so that we could wake up early and continue on with our pilgrimage. The next day, we traveled to the Shrine of the Most Blessed Sacrament and the Monastery of Our Lady of Angels in Hanceville, Alabama. The Shrine was very beautiful and had Exposition of the Eucharist during the day since the Poor Clares that live in the Monastery have as part of their charism adoration with a spirit of thanksgiving.
We were able to go to Mass in the crypt where the grave of Mother Angelica, founder of the Monastery and the Catholic television channel EWTN, is located. Later on, we had the grace of being able to speak with the priest that helped Mother Angelica during her last days on earth and that celebrated her last Mass. He told us what Mother was like and encouraged the girls to be the saints that God is calling them to be, with their talents, with their miseries, with their character, etc. God wants them to be saints just the way they are. In the afternoon, we were able to meet with two of the Poor Clares of the Monastery who spoke to us about their Order, what they dedicate their time doing, and responded to many of the questions the girls had. For the majority of them, it was the first time they had met cloistered nuns. We left the Shrine happy and edified, ready to fight for holiness and discover God’s will for our lives.
On December 28th, we went to morning Mass celebrated by our friend, Fr. Guillermo. Later, the girls had a meeting with the Sisters in which they spoke about how the world is nothing and Christ is everything. “I consider all things so much rubbish, that I may gain Christ,” was one of the key phrases that helped the girls the most. In the afternoon, we went to Fr. Guillermo’s parish for Exposition of the Blessed Sacrament. Due to different circumstances, instead of a Holy Hour like we thought, we ended up spending two hours in prayer. The girls considered it a grace to be able to spend that time with the Lord, and for many of them it was the best part of the pilgrimage.
In the evening, we made a campfire and received a surprise visit: Alvaro Vega, a Catholic rapper from Nicaragua who came to sing some songs to the girls and share his conversion story. His life changed after reading the “Imitation of Christ.” That book helped him realize that he had an inmortal soul that he had to save, and in order to save it, he had to change his lifestyle and give himself to God. Now, he uses his musical talents to lead souls to the Lord. His testimony was a living example of someone who experienced the emptiness of the world and was able to discover that Christ is everything.
On the last day of the pilgrimage, we went to Mass and afterwards started our journey back home. During the car ride, we asked the girls to sum up the pilgrimage with a word or a sentence. One of the girls said that during the pilgrimage, “she had discovered what true beauty is.” Another said that it had been “miraculous” because the Lord had performed miracles of grace in her soul. Other girls received really big graces to be totally open to what God could ask of them – which is no small matter!
The pilgrimage was short but intense. You could tell that Our Lady was present the whole time. On their part, the girls made an effort to live it in such a way that Our Lady was happy to make herself present among us. It was she who chose them for this trip and it was her that accompanied us. We give her thanks for this opportunity to grow in faith, hope, and love.