As I sit on the plane reflecting about the trip, I realize that this experience provided far more than I ever anticipated. Each day we learned about Father Moreau’s journey and the places that were of great significance. We visited many churches and learned about how each played a role in his life. We walked some of the same paths he would’ve walked and saw where he slept when he needed some time of solitude. We met so many wonderful French people who welcomed us into their spaces and showed us such wonderful hospitality. The places we visited were things I expected. I expected to learn more about the life of Moreau and how deeply faithful and committed he was. I expected to be moved by the history of our university and seeing where it all began. What I didn’t expect is how deeply moved I would be by all of these experiences.
While I walked through the labyrinth at the cathedral in Chartres, I thought about how that labyrinth is much like our life. It twists and turns and you never know where it’s going to lead or who you will come across along the way, but it sets you up with experiences that, for better or worse, shape you. Even when we feel our path is veering away from our goals/hopes/dreams, we come to recognize that with faith it will bring us back on the right path. This is the moment I realized how beautiful and deeply moving this experience was.
I couldn’t believe that I was sitting in places, looking at structures, and following paths of people who had been there over a thousand years before me. I also realized that, beyond learning the history, I was developing these deeply meaningful connections with the other pilgrims. When we began our journey I knew a handful of the group and the others I only met for our three Moreau prep meetings. These meetings were filled with so much information I wasn’t able to really connect with everyone. On the plane ride to Paris, I was assigned a seat next to two other pilgrims (one of whom I knew and the other I didn’t). I sporadically chatted with the girl I knew, Rochelle, before she fell asleep. Mamie and I, another pilgrim, didn’t say more than a couple sentences to each other. Fast forward to 7 days later and I consider Mamie my friend and am truly excited to reconnect when we get back on campus. I found a connection with each person and will return to campus knowing that this time together helped us forge friendships that will last forever. I have 18 new friends on campus and several abroad who all shared in this incredible experience. I really didn’t count on how much these people would enhance this pilgrimage, but they all provided their own unique ” je ne sais quoi” that made this trip so much more positive, moving, and truly more beautiful than I ever thought possible.
I may be saying “au revoir” to France, but with the memories that were made I know that France and Father Moreau’s story will have forever changed my heart.
Written by Robyn Centilli