by Mark Tibai
Four seminarians accompany vocation discerners on a spiritual pilgrimage to France.
Fr. Timothy Birney, as director of priestly vocations for the Archdiocese of Detroit, was the organizer of this In the Footsteps of the Saints pilgrimage. Father Tim and the men were joined by Bishop Donald Hanchon, auxiliary bishop of Detroit, Fr. Stephen Rooney, pastor of Our Lady on the River in Marine City, and Fr. Marie-Elie Haby, pastor of Our Lady of Guadalupe in Detroit. (The journey ended up being Father Tim's last vocation event before being assigned by Archbishop Vigneron as pastor of St. Francis Cabrini Parish in Allen Park, beginning July 1.)
Our first stop was to celebrate Mass at the Basilica of Our Lady of Victory in Paris, where saints such as John Bosco and Thre of Lisieux prayed in front of the statue of Our Lady of Victory seeking help in their discernment. We, too, asked for guidance from Our Lady as we began our discernment pilgrimage.
We spent a few more days in Paris praying at the different pilgrimage sites and making day trips to places such as Rouen, where St. Joan of Arc received the crown of martyrdom, and Lisieux, where St. Thre grew up and entered the Carmelite Order. We visited the magnificent Cathedral of Notre Dame in Paris. We journeyed up the hill of Montmartre to the Basilica of Sacr-Cur (Sacred Heart), where Eucharistic exposition has been taking place for over one hundred years. Needless to say, we were able to experience many different aspects of the beauty of our Catholic faith and to pray in the presence of different saints.
After our time in Paris, we boarded a train for a four-hour train ride to Lourdes. It is here that Our Lady appeared to St. Bernadette Soubirous and revealed a healing spring to her. It was amazing to see the many sick and infirm seeking out the intercession of Our Lady of Lourdes. Many of us took advantage of being bathed in the healing waters and asking for Mary's intercession in our lives.
Our final pilgrimage stop was Ars. It was a ten-hour bus ride from Lourdes to Ars, but the ride was beautiful (and many of us caught up on some much needed sleep!) Ars is where St. John Vianney tirelessly worked bringing souls back to God. It was amazing to see the confessionals where the Cur d'Ars (priest of Ars) easily spent most of his time. It was in the quiet of Ars that the men discerning the priesthood shared how this pilgrimage affected them.
Our sharing revealed that this pilgrimage helped some of the discerners to see that they do not have a call to the priesthood. Others said this trip was the push they needed to pick up an application for the seminary, while others were confirmed in their decision to enter the seminary. It was beautiful to join my brother seminarians and partake of this pilgrimage. All holy men and women of France, pray for us!
Mark TibaiMark Tibai just completed his third year of theology and is now ministering at St. John the Baptist Parish in Monroe for his pastoral year.