Skip to Content

A Life Changing Pilgrimage to Rome and the Vatican

Last week I had the privilege of attending a life changing spiritual resiliency pilgrimage throughout Rome and the Vatican.  This trip was completely funded by The Chaplain’s Office of the US Army Europe using Chapel Tithes and Offerings in conjunction with the strategic planning of the USO Rome for the Wounded Warriors of the Warrior Transition Battalion-Europe and their family members.

It was a once in a lifetime opportunity.

A Life Changing Pilgrimage to Rome and the Vatican |

Outside St. Peter’s Basilica just before the Papal Audience

In May of 2010, my Mother passed away at the age of 68.  As long as I could remember, my Mother always spoke of visiting Rome and bearing witness to the one place that everything she believef in as a Catholic would be close enough to touch.  My Mother dreamed of visiting the Vatican, meeting the Pope and praying in the Sistine Chapel.

Last week, five years after her death, I fulfilled her lifelong dream.  I visited the Vatican, I met the Pope and I prayed in the Sistine Chapel… and through the entire journey, I felt my mother with me.  I wore her diamond earrings during the journey and took a moment every opportunity I had to say a prayer of remembrance for her.

A Life Changing Pilgrimage to Rome and the Vatican |

St. Peter’s Basilica

Each day of this Spirituality Resiliency Retreat had a different theme set out by our chaplain, Ch. Regule.

Ready – Our first day of the 2 day road trip!  We were all packed and READY to begin this fantastic journey.

Reset – Day 2 of travel gave us an opportunity to reset our train of thought and get ourselves ready to receive what the week had to offer us.

A Life Changing Pilgrimage to Rome and the Vatican |

The Vatican Museum

Receive – Our first day touring brought us to the Vatican Museum, the Sistine Chapel and St. Peter’s Basilica.  Our goal this day was to receive the Holy Spirit and be open to anything we may feel while visiting such a holy place.

A Life Changing Pilgrimage to Rome and the Vatican |

The Pietà by Michelangelo

Restore, Renew, Revive, Repent – Wednesday was the day we were fortunate to have an audience with the Pope and the day we could fit any “R” word we needed into our hearts.

A Life Changing Pilgrimage to Rome and the Vatican | JavaCupcake.comFor me, after hearing the word of Papa Francesco, I felt a renewed sense of purpose as my role as care taker to my husband (who suffers from combat related injuries).  I also felt revived in the Catholic faith, a feeling I had not felt in 20 years.  Being in the presence of the Pope allowed me to reconnect with my faith and reaffirmed my commitment to having a relationship with the Lord.

A Life Changing Pilgrimage to Rome and the Vatican |

A Life Changing Pilgrimage to Rome and the Vatican |

This summary of the catechesis by Papa Francesco was read in English during our Papal Audience. Those words reaffirmed my commitment to helping Dave overcome his combat related injuries, to our marriage and to my love for my family. Out of all the days that I could have been witness to Pope Francis… I believe I was meant to hear these words.

Today we consider the promise of love and fidelity made between husbands and wives, which is the basis of all family life.

This promise is called into question nowadays and seen is somehow opposed to personal freedom.   Yet the truth is that our freedom is shaped and sustained by the fidelity to the choices and commitments we make throughout life.

Fidelity grows through our daily efforts to keep our word.  Indeed fidelity to our promises is a supreme expression of our dignity as human beings.

There is no greater school to teach us such fidelity than marriage and the family, which are in God’s plan a blessing for our world.

St. Paul tells us that the love which grounds the family points to the bond of love between Christ and the church.  In these days of the hardship on the family, let us pray that the church will uphold and strengthen the promise of the family with creativity and with unfailing trust in that faithful love in which the Lord fulfills His every promise.

The video below is from the Vatican and shows the entire Papal Audience I was privileged enough to attend.

A Life Changing Pilgrimage to Rome and the Vatican |

Papa Francesco took so much time with each person he came in contact with.  His love for people and his willingness to truly care for those who wish to love & serve the Lord is awe-inspiring.

Relationship – The final day of touring Rome, we were to reach out to those around us and either strengthen relationships or build new ones.   I chose to do both.  I took this time to bond with my husband over an amazing day of touring as well as taking the opportunity to use my military-wife skills.  I was able to connect with our Battalion LTC and ask him questions about our upcoming move and get answers we had been unsuccessful at getting in the past.  This connection, this new relationship really started the ball rolling on our future back in the USA.

A Life Changing Pilgrimage to Rome and the Vatican |

The Roman Forum

A Life Changing Pilgrimage to Rome and the Vatican |

The Colosseum

A Life Changing Pilgrimage to Rome and the Vatican |

The Pantheon

Risorgimento – Which is an Italian word that means to change in a way the transforms you so that you’re not the same.   On the first leg of the drive home, I realized that I will never be same after this trip.  I had been transformed. All of my fears about my life, my marriage, my husband and his health were all put to rest.  I was now confident in my role, in my commitment and in my love for my family.  No more doubt was present.  I have this life for a reason… to be the wife my husband needs and the mother my children deserve.

A Life Changing Pilgrimage to Rome and the Vatican |

Reflect & Remembrance – Once we arrived home, rest along with reflection and remembrance of our journey was in order.  Writing this blog post is a part of the remembrance process for me.   Sharing my pilgrimage and my journey on my blog will cement my commitment to my family and my husband.

This entire trip would not have been possible without the support of the Chaplain’s Office, the USO Rome and our tour guide Jean Paul.

LTC Lawrence Burns presented certificates of appreciation to Christiano & his staff of the USO Rome for all his hard work in planning and organizing this trip for the Wounded Warriors of the WTB-Europe.

A Life Changing Pilgrimage to Rome and the Vatican |

This was our entire group of Wounded Warriors & their families along with the Chaplain, security & staff of the WTB-Europe outside the USO Rome office on our first day of touring Rome.  Thank you USO Rome for being amazing hosts for our time in Rome!  You made us feel welcomed and loved!

Courtesy of the USO Rome

Courtesy of the USO Rome

LTC Burns also presented our tour guide, Jean Paul with a certificate of appreciate.  His knowledge of Rome and the Vatican was vast and he knew the answers to any an all questions we had for him.  Not only was he a professional, but he was kind and fun to be with!

A Life Changing Pilgrimage to Rome and the Vatican |

You better believe I found cupcakes in Rome too!  But… that adventure is for another day and another blog post!

A Life Changing Pilgrimage to Rome and the Vatican |

Made Creative Bakery

I took almost 1000 photos during this trip and there was no way I could include them all in this blog post, so I’ve put the best 100 or so pictures in this gallery below!  Enjoy!

Rome & the Vatican – October 2015

[Best_Wordpress_Gallery id=”1″ gal_title=”Rome & the Vatican”]

Vickie Koath

Thursday 29th of October 2015

I am so happy for you and your family. I am Catholic also, and was in such awe when my husband & I had the opportunity to visit Rome and the Vatican in 2012. To be able to see and touch so many of the places that I had learned about was amazing. I am so happy to hear that this has renewed your Catholicism. Our faith is such a wonderful gift and that we can receive the body and blood of our Lord at Mass is such a blessing. It gives us the strength we need to live as Christians in a world where so many would like to destroy our love. I will continue to pray for you and your family. Many blessings.

Kayle (The Cooking Actress)

Thursday 29th of October 2015



Wednesday 28th of October 2015

Thank you for sharing your journey with such sincerity and transparency. I too have struggled with my faith and have learned over the years that God does not call the equipped, but equips the called and we all are called to do something ?. I am far from perfect, have made a TON of mistakes, heck I have out righted sinned and still struggle with it. My 14 year old learning disabled child told me a few months ago when I was struggling with other Christians and the church "Religion is used as a way to edify one self, not judge others." Amazing how God speaks to us on individual levels.