November 10, 2015 // Local

Bon voyage to pilgrims off to shrines of Italy

Pilgrims from the South Bend area depart St. Pius X Parish, Granger, on Nov. 3 for a 10-day tour of Italian shrines. Father Terrence Coonan and fellow travellers wave as the bus prepares for departure to catch the flight to Italy.

By Tim Johnson

GRANGER — A group of pilgrims boarded a bus at St. Pius X Parish, Granger, as they began their venture to a Nov. 3-13 tour of the shrines of Italy. Today’s Catholic Travel presents the tour. Father Terrence Coonan, pastor of St. John the Baptist Church in South Bend, will be the travel host.

The 10-day tour will include Rome, Assisi, Florence, Loreto, San Giovanni Rotondo, Capania, Pompeii and a papal audience.

Pilgrim Janet Kelsey, who travelled to Italy 10 years ago, was excited to visit St. Peter’s Basilica, Pompeii and Assisi. “You can go to Rome 50 times and not see everything,” she shared.

For pilgrim Tom Keller, it was a first-time trip to Italy. He was looking forward to seeing Rome, the Vatican, “and I’m sure we’ll see Pope Francis,” he said. Keller has been to Europe several times, but never to Italy, “so I’m pretty excited,” he added.

Keller’s son, Steve, was travelling with his son — three generations, a total of five family members. “I’m pretty excited about us being able to go and experience a bit of a pilgrimage to Rome, see Assisi, see where Padre Pio preached,” Steve said.

Tom Keller said he expected Father Coonan to be energetic, and “I think he’ll take good care of us.”

Msgr. John Kuzmich, a retired pastor who resides at Sacred Heart of Jesus at Lakeville, was also on the tour. He has been to Italy several times and in 1997 made a three-month sabbatical in Rome.

Msgr. Kuzmich saw Father Coonan grow up at St. Vincent de Paul Parish in Fort Wayne. The monsignor was pleased to accompany Father Coonan. “He’s a nice guy,” Msgr. Kuzmich said. “And I hope he’s excited to go with me.”

Father Coonan said, “I’m very excited about the trip. It will be a wonderful experience to enjoy the beautiful country of Italy and all the shrines there. We’ll also be close to our Holy Father Francis. So I’m very excited. May God be with us throughout this trip and please pray for us.”

Father Coonan has been to Rome four times, but there were many new shrines and stops on this pilgrimage that he had not seen on the previous trips. He was also travelling with his parents and mentioned former pastor, Msgr. John Kuzmich, who was pastor of St. Vincent de Paul Parish in Fort Wayne from the time Father Coonan was 2 years old through his ordination to the Priesthood. “It is beautiful to have him here with me on the trip.”

Ken Marosz visited Italy in 2008, but it was not a religious pilgrimage. He was excited about returning to Assisi. “One of the things I’m excited about is seeing the tomb of John Paul II at the Vatican. He is one of my most favorite saints and I have special devotion to him,” Morose said.

Karen Graverson said she was excited about “everything.”

“I’ve never been (there) before, so I want to see it all,” Graverson said.

For more on the Today’s Catholic Travel service visit

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