Watertown— In celebration of their 100th anniversary, St Anthony’s church began planning over a year ago to take a trip to southern Italy.
The Pilgrimage of faith was for Italian members of the church who were interested in tracing their heritage, most from the Sicily and Calabria regions. Father Don Robinson, Pastor of St. Anthony’s and St. Patrick’s churches, ventured with a few church members to Southern Italy two weeks ago.
The group flew from NYC to Pulermo on the island of Sicily, also made stops in Agrigento, Siracusa, Taormina, and then took a ferryboat ride through the Straits of Messina. “We spent the day in Calabria, then went up the coast to Sorrento, the Amalfi Coast, Pompeii, and then ended up in Rome last Tuesday, not expecting to hear big news the following day,” said Father Robinson.
Watching breaking news from the hotel that the smoke from the Sistine Chapel chimney turned white, Father Robinson and church members had 45 minutes to rush to St. Peter’s Square. “It was like a scene from a movie” said Father Robinson, “people were jumping out of buses, taxis, sort parked their car anywhere and just started running.” Approximately 150,000 people filled St. Peter’s Square, a memorable moment for Father Robinson and the few members of his church who came on the trip. “We had planned this trip a year ago, we happened to be at the right place at the right time. It is definitely a day I will not forget.”
According to Father Robinson, name selection with past popes has often been repetitive. “There has never been a pope to take the name Francis and I didn’t find out until later that night that he's a Jesuit.” Father Robinson felt that the crowd would have been cheerful regardless of which pope was selected. However, he did feel that pope Francis brings a unique enthusiasm. “The Catholic church voted unanimously for a fresh perspective. Francis symbolizes a man who loves, protects life, connects with the poor, the down trodden, and the third world,” said Father Robinson. “Pope Benedict was Benedict the 16th, a lot of names have been repeated over many years. We’ve had 265 popes and no one has ever chosen the name Francis. When you think about it and what that name symbolizes, it’s pretty incredible.”
Tomorrow, March 19th, Pope Francis’ pontificate begins with a Mass in St. Peter’s Basilica. Last week, Pope Francis urged Argentines to not come to Rome for his inaugural Mass, but to give their money to the poor.