On Holy Thursday, members of the St Rita of Cascia High School band, their family, and friends departed for a 9
day journey to Italy. The first two nights were spent in Venice, where they toured the Doge’s Palace, saw a glass blowing demonstration at the Murano Glass Factory, and even took a Gondola ride in the rain.
After making a lunch stop in Pisa to see the famous Leaning Tower, the group journeyed to San Gimignano, the oldest Augustinian community in the world. Fr. Thomas McCarthy, chairman of the board at St. Rita, celebrated Easter Sunday mass at the Sant’Agostino monastery chapel. The band performed a rousing concert for the people of San Gimignano and the tourists.
Next was the moment the group had been waiting for, a pilgrimage to Cascia, the home of St. Rita. They stayed two nights in Cascia and prayed by St. Rita’s incorrupt body in the Basilica. They also toured the convent where St. Rita was a nun. Fr. McCarthy was able to go into the room that St. Rita died in and place prayer intentions in her original coffin. The group was able to view the room where she received the stigmata, and also see her original wedding ring. They then loaded the buses and went to the neighboring town of Roccaporena, St. Rita’s birthplace. They were able to visit St. Rita’s childhood home, the miracle of the rose garden, and the church she was married in. Many of the group members also climbed the mountain where St. Rita used to go and pray. The band and ritanettes performed an outstanding concert for the people of Cascia, including the mayor and an Augustinian Bishop. Sophomore trombonist, Ruben Mercado, said “The freedom to roam around that small town in the mountains, and the spiritual experience made Cascia without a doubt my favorite stop on the trip.”
The last two nights of the trip were spent in Rome. The first day was spent in Ancient Rome, visiting the Colosseum and Roman Forum. The next day was spent in Vatican City, touring the Vatican Museum, Sistine Chapel, and St. Peter’s Basilica. The group then went to the Augustinian world headquarters, located at St. Monica’s, which is right across the street from St. Peter’s Square.
The group was met by Fr. Michael DiGregorio, the Assistant General for the Order of St. Augustine. He gave the group a tour of the grounds, including the rooftops where the Associated Press and NBC stayed for three weeks while covering the new pope. The rooftops overlook St. Peter’s Square and have a perfect view of the balcony that the pope comes out to greet everyone. Before leaving St. Monica’s, the group had a wonderful surprise visit by Fr. Robert Prevost, the Prior General of the Augustinian Order. Fr. Prevost is in charge of all the Augustinians around the world.
The group, 90 in all, had their farewell dinner at the Hard Rock Café in Rome. After dinner, they walked down the Spanish Steps and over to the Trevi Fountain. Now that the gelato has been digested, and the jetlag is over, everyone can look back on a wonderful trip. At least that is the wish of band director, Cindy Gradek, “In organizing this trip, it was our intention to let everyone see as much as they could in a short amount of time. My hope is that the students will all make it back to Italy, and develop a love and appreciation for travel and all that this world has to offer.”