Diocesan Retreat & Pilgrimage to Ars, France

I feel grateful to be part of this diocesan retreat/ pilgrimage. I will treasure my time with my brother priests.

Our pilgrimage started in the town of Ars, France. We got up very early for morning prayers and breakfast. The bishop presided over the Masses in the Basilica of St. John Vianney. I will never forget that I concelebrated Mass in front of the altar where St. John Vianney’s incorrupt body is kept, patron Saint of Diocesan priests.

Each day, we had two conferences led by the retreat master, Fr. Bret Brannen, a priest from Savannah, Georgia. Our retreat in Ars was really great.

Our residence has been “La Providence” which was once the orphanage and school for girls by St. John Vianney. It has been transformed into a simple guest house run by a religious community of sisters.
Every night we had Holy Hour in the Basilica. The monstrance used was St. John Vianney’s own. What storied and revered item. It was a blessing to have time in prayer with my brother priests from our diocese.

The messages that impressed me the most about the conferences were:
– Being Grateful to God for being his priest. I’m not a priest because I deserve it. I’m a priest because God is merciful to us.
– God is merciful and kind. Each day He is teaching us to be merciful and kind to others. Jesus makes people kind.
– Trust in the power of prayer. The first duty to priest is to pray. As Archbishop emeritus Carlson said, “A priest who doesn’t pray does stupid things.”
– St. John Vianney was not the best preacher, but people cried when they heard him.

After our retreat was completed, we spent the day touring Lyon a city with Roman Roots. We visited the Cathedral of St. John the Baptist, where we celebrated Mass and visited the Basilica of Notre-Dame de Fourvière. After lunch, we went to the village of Dardilly, where St John Vianney was born and raised. We visited his family home.

On Divine Mercy Sunday we had Mass in the Carmelite chapel where St. Marguerite Marie Alacoque received her visions of Jesus. After lunch we went to Nevers to visit the Tomb of St. Bernadette who was the recipient of the apparitions of Our Lady of Lourdes. We were able to pray a rosary at the tomb of St. Bernadette Soubirous.

We visited Notre Dame of Chartres where we offered Mass in the Crypt. Then we went to Mont Saint-Michel, which originally was a Benedictine monastery. It was dissolved during the French Revolution.
Next day we prayed a rosary at the American Cemetery after visiting Pointe du Hoc and Omaha Beach, sites associated with the D-Day invasion.

On our last day, we visited the convent where St. Therese of the Child Jesus and Holy Face lived and died, then on to the cathedral, and then her basilica for Mass in the crypt.

On our way back, a severe storm hit the Dallas area right as we were flying in. Thankfully, we landed safely. Our airline cancelled our flight from Dallas to Columbia, MO at 2:30 am so we opted to rent three vehicles to get us back home. We made our way back to Columbia mid-afternoon on April 20. Thanks be to God.