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Pilgrimage to Tallahassee

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Girls’ pilgrimage to Tallahassee, Florida, December 27th.30th, 2018.

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On December 27, the Sisters of Home of the Mother came from Jacksonville with eleven other girls to have a Pilgrimage in Tallahassee. My friends and I were participating, but since the four of us already live in the Tallahassee area, we met the sisters and the other girls when they arrived here. We were all eager to begin our spiritual journey with the sisters, here in our own home town!

We stayed in a small house that was owned by the Good Shepherd Catholic Church. I know that many of the girls were hoping to experience God’s ardent love and grace, and we were not disappointed! That first night, we had some beautiful adoration time in the chapel of Blessed Sacrament Catholic Church. Many of us received much peace from this, which set the mood for the rest of our wonderful Pilgrimage.

The next day, we went to visit the Franciscan TOR Sisters that live here in Tallahassee. Experiencing a different order of sisters, and learning about the similarities and differences of how they live and what their missions are in comparison to the Home of the Mother was definitely enlightening. Their openness and generosity in sharing this time with us was beautiful to witness as well. They told us their stories and answered our many questions. Then we had an hour of prayer, which allowed us to present ourselves to Jesus and ask for his graces so that we might become just as prayerful and devoted as all of these sisters, no matter what sort of life we’re called to!

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Afterwards, we made our way out to Mission San Luis. This was the only place beyond St. Augustine where several hundred Spanish people lived with native Florida folk, the Apalachee Indians. It was fascinating to see some of the re-created structures that the Apalachee residents dwelled and worked in. Seeing and learning about the ways that they lived definitely opened our eyes to how very different everything was as that time, yet many of them were Christian, so we made a connection with them despite the time gap.

Later, went to the Mansion, a local historical building that is in an important location for the Martyrs of La Florida (a shrine is planned to be built sometime in the future on this site, and the old Mansion is going to be restored). There, we met Lynn Mangan, the vice postulator for the cause of canonization for the Antonio Cuipa and his Companions, met with us there to tell us about the Martyrs. She explained how many Native Americans, Spanish lay men and women, and priests and religious were killed defending the eucharist. Many were told to renounce their faith, and when they remained devoted to our Lord even in the face of such peril, they were tortured and killed. Antonio Cuipa was a lead martyr. He had a family, was a chief and a zealous catechist, bringing many native people to Christianity. When the English attacked, they sought to break this joyful and charismatic leader. He was tortured on a burning cross, but remained faithful to God through it all. Near his moment of death, Antonio Cuipa cried out from the cross that the Virgin Mother had appeared by his side, and they he was looking into her eyes. He said that it was this that gave him the courage to withstand his martyrdom.

Another martyr, an Apalachee Indian named Francisco El Chiquito, was also tied to a cross. His faith was scorned, and his legs were cut off to mock his short stature. He responded that this was fine, that he didn’t need legs because the angels would bring him into Paradise. One particular story that was exceptionally moving was of a mother, Mariana, and her son, Jacinto. They were both told to renounce their faith and spit on the wooden crosses that they had around their necks. Mariana replied that they couldn’t do that, for the cross was her heart, so to deny the cross would be to destroy her heart. Jacinto was thus tortured and killed in front of her, the two of them praying the rosary the whole time.

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Another martyr, an Apalachee Indian named Francisco El Chiquito, was also tied to a cross. His faith was scorned, and his legs were cut off to mock his short stature. He responded that this was fine, that he didn’t need legs because the angels would bring him into Paradise. One particular story that was exceptionally moving was of a mother, Mariana, and her son, Jacinto. They were both told to renounce their faith and spit on the wooden crosses that they had around their necks. Mariana replied that they couldn’t do that, for the cross was her heart, so to deny the cross would be to destroy her heart. Jacinto was thus tortured and killed in front of her, the two of them praying the rosary the whole time.

The next day of the Pilgrimage, we exercised our ability to serve others and bring joy to everyone we meet. The Naimans, a family that has a daughter with the Home of the Mother (Sr. Anne Marie Naiman) took us to the Broadview Assisted Living home, a place where they often visit. There, we sang Christmas Carols to the residents. It was beautiful for everyone to witness how joyful the elderly were when we sat with them and talked and sang. Later, we went to an impoverished town in Quincy that had been affected greatly by Hurricane Michael, and we brought soap, shampoos and conditioners to some of the residents living there. We sang for them as well, and brought candy for the small children. There, too, we were able to spread God’s love and joy, rejoicing in the wonderful music. This experience moved some of the girls greatly, encouraging us to reach out to the people who followed us as we walked. Words can hardly describe it! I personally found this to be one of the greatest visits that we made, for it truly brought me so much joy to see the small children following us around with their brightly colored tambourines, playing along with the music. I received much perspective from this particular visit, as well as the Broadview visit, and I will never forget it!

We then went to the Spanish mass at St. John the Apostle, so that some of the sisters could sing with the choir. Although many of the girls could only understand a little bit of the Spanish, it was nevertheless a beautiful experience. Afterwards, we went to the Edward’s house (the family of one of the Tallahassee girls on the trip) for a Fiesta! It was a wonderful night, full of happiness and rejoicing, and I could see the joy of the Lord in each and every girl.

The next day, we concluded our Pilgrimage with Sunday mass at Good Shepherd, after which the sisters and other girls went back to Jacksonville. But I believe that all of us gained many graces from the journey, and that we’ve all grown greatly from it! It was most certainly an experience that would be pretty hard to forget. Siempre Fideles!

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