When in Rome... - Andrew Kebe's Rome Trip ReCap

SPO Ohio’s Senior Mission Director, Andrew Kebe, was blessed to travel to Rome with SPO National’s Expansion Director, Brian Fischer, this past month. Below, Andrew shares his beautiful journey with us!

Praying at the tombs four of the Apostles…Visiting three out of the four Papal Basilicas in Rome…Joining Pope Benedict for the closing Mass of the Bishops’ Synod on the New Evangelization…Yes, this was a pilgrimage to be remembered!

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I landed in Rome on Saturday and took a cab directly to the Basilica of St. Paul Outside the Walls. As I walked in, I immediately noticed a confessional that said “English” and went in – perfect – a great start to my pilgrimage! I then spent the next two hours interceding for each of the intentions I had received from those who attended the SPO Banquet, family members and other SPO community members. This was a great honor and a time of tremendous grace for me to share in these intentions ask for the intercession of SPO’s patron, St. Paul! I was also able to make a donation to have a mass said in the Basilica for all these beautiful intentions! As I was praying, I felt inspired to pray the following prayer from St. Paul’s letter to the Ephesians on behalf of all of these intentions: For this reason I kneel before the Father…that he may grant you…to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, so that you may be filled with all the fullness of God. Now to him who is able to accomplish far more than all we ask or imagine, by the power at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever. Amen. (Eph 3:14-21)

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On Sunday, Brian and I rose early to get in line for what turned out to be excellent seats in St. Peter’s Basilica for the closing Mass of the Bishops’ Synod on the New Evangelization. The words from Hebrews 12:1, Therefore, surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, echoed in my heart as what seemed like an endless procession of Bishops and Cardinals entering the magnificent sanctuary before Pope Benedict’s arrival. It was truly an honor for me to take part in such a special celebration closing this important time for the future of our Church.

Over the next two days, we participated in a conference for New Evangelization ministries, hosted by Canada’s Catholic Christian Outreach. We had the honor of hearing the reflections and comments from five Synod participants, Most Reverend Gerald Lacroix, Archbishop of Quebec and Primate of Canada; Fr. Thomas Rosica, CEO of Salt and Light Television and Official English language Media Secretary for Synod; Dr. Ralph Martin, Director of Graduate Theology Programs in the New Evangelization and appointed Expert to the Synod; Cardinal Donald Wuerl, Archbishop of Washington, D.C., and Relater General for the Synod; and finally Archbishop Rino Fisichella, President of Pontifical Council on the Promotion of New Evangelization. Their reports showed how the Holy Spirit led all of the Synod Fathers to leave their time inspired and encouraged to renew the call to evangelization in their home Dioceses.

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Unfortunately, my time is Rome came to end an just as Hurricane Sandy hit, closing the New York Airports. I was given two extra days in Rome – I guess it was not the worst place in the world to be stuck! On Tuesday, Brian Fischer and I had the honor of meeting with Fr. Eugene Sylva, who is the English speaking Official for the Pontifical Council on the Promotion of New Evangelization. Fr. Sylva was especially excited to hear about SPO’s School of the New Evangelization and he encouraged us to continue in our efforts to collaborate with other groups to expand the scope of the New Evangelization. Later that day, I had the chance to attend Mass at St. Peter’s Basilica and to pray at the tomb of Blessed John Paul II. As I prayed about the great talents and charisms that characterized our late Holy Father, I felt God inspiring me to pray for more young men and women to bring glory to God by stewarding well all that God has given them, whether that be as laity renewing the temporal order or as priests and religious offering their lives to this vocation of service to the Church.

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On my final day in Italy, I decided to head for the hills and visit a very special place: Assisi, the home of the Basilica of San Francesco and the tomb of St. Francis of Assisi. In this absolutely charming city surrounded by grandiose views of the surrounding mountains and valleys, I had the chance to pray at the tomb of one of the most inspiring men in the Church’s litany of saints. As I prayed before St. Francis’ tomb, I was moved by the four canonized “companions of St. Francis” buried surrounding his tomb. I was struck by this simple yet beautiful reminder of the importance of friendship and community as I imagined the relationships between these five men – the ways that they inspired each other on to holiness and mission, the way that they must have supported one another through trials, and even the simple fun that they must have had cherishing the rich relationships that God had given them in each other. I was also moved as I reflected that Saints do not just live saintly lives, but they draw others to live this way around them. May God’s grace through each other’s witnesses continue to send us all toward this goal of sainthood.

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While I am still digesting my dozens of pages of notes from our “Friends of the New Evangelization” conference following the Synod, here are a few highlights of what we discussed. A resounding theme was that we have to continue to focus on the care for and friendship with each individual so that mature discipleship is the goal ahead of great quantities of people reached. A strong emphasis was placed on the fact that we, as workers in the new evangelization must know Christ, we must become saints, so that we can invite others into relationships with Him. We are called to bring a renewed joy, hope, charm and creativity into our work for the New Evangelization as we bring this to the very centers of culture. Many of our presenters noted that the university, where everyone is welcome and the search for truth is most evident, is where we need to continue to invest tremendous amounts of time, energy and prayer so that the truth of Jesus Christ will be clearly present for this next generation. To learn more on the specifics covered in the Synod, you can read the Propositions (http://www.zenit.org/article-35831?l=english) that were developed as a summary of the Synod and will be incorporated into Pope Benedict’s Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation.

These reflections, times of prayer, and moments of awe in the presence of such greatness certainly has renewed my zeal and vigor for the call that God has given to me and the SPO Missionaries: to bring the Catholic Faith Alive on Campus. Thank you all for all of your prayers and support that make it possible for us to follow in the examples of so many great saints of old in deepening our relationship with Christ and His Church and bringing that to gift to all whom we meet.

-submitted by Andrew Kebe, SPO Ohio Senior Mission Director