CHARLESTON — Some South Carolina teens were thinking ahead on Nov. 22 by participating in a special Pauline year pilgrimage at the Cathedral of St. John the Baptist.
By taking part in Mass, the sacrament of confession, and an educational journey, youth from nine parishes received a plenary indulgence as authorized by Pope Benedict XVI. An indulgence is a remission of the temporal punishment a person is due for sins that have been forgiven.
The pilgrimage began with a celebration of the Mass dedicated to St. Paul by Father Gregory B. Wilson, rector pro tem of the Cathedral. Father Wilson invited all in attendance to receive the sacrament of confession, the Euch arist and to pray for the intentions of the pope.
About 50 teenagers attended the event and were given the freedom to enjoy the day at their own pace. They ate when hungry, drank when thirsty and went to confession when ready. Cell phones were silenced and students were told to “give as much of your time today to the pilgrimage,” according to Marie Donnelly, director of youth ministry at the Cathedral.
Youth were split into groups according to their age. They were given journey bags made by the Daughters of St. Paul to carry items collected along the way. While the high school students stayed at the Cathedral parish hall, the junior high students walked to Pauline Books and Media on King Street where students of the College of Charleston treated them to a special presentation.
The youth watched a brief film that featured realistic facts with a humorous twist. Students found the film amusing, yet were amazed by how much they learned regarding the life and missions of St. Paul.
“It was nice. I learned more than I already knew. They did a good job of saying it in our point of view,” said Emma De Rhodo, an eighth-grader from the Cathedral.
Kenny Robinson, an 11th-grader from St. Andrew Church in Myrtle Beach, felt the same.
“I thought it was very interesting. I learned something new about St. Paul and Christianity,” he said.
Based on his own experiences as a teenager, Justin Gaeta, the College of Charleston student who created the film, wanted to find a more interesting way to relay information to young people. The film featured college students, a priest and religious sister. The college students talked to the youth in their own language while the priest and sister clarified what really occurred.
“I knew it was going to be for high schoolers and middle schoolers and I remember the skits didn’t interest me,” Gaeta said. “I thought this would be a better way.”
“We wanted to have varying perspectives on St. Paul,” said Tim Devine, another College of Charleston student who helped create the movie.
The film was not an everyday lecture on the life of St. Paul and the youth seemed to appreciate the content and arrangement.
“I think it was good because they put some humor into it,” said Meagan Ahl, a seventh-grader from Church of the Nativity on James Island.
After the presentation, the Daughters of St. Paul offered the junior high students hot chocolate and colorful rosary bracelets. They also had the opportunity to go to confession. The groups then swapped places and trekked to the next pilgrimage site.
The junior high group returned to the Cathedral center for games and a discussion about St. Paul. They listened attentively to Father Wilson, and Donnelly quizzed them on the differences between Sts. Paul and Peter.
The groups reunited at St. Mary of the Annunciation on Hasell Street, and the pilgrimage ended after benediction and adoration at the Cathedral.
“I hope it went very well,” Father Wilson said in an interview with The Miscellany. “The kids seemed to be very engaged. I hope it changed their lives. We have to have the St. Paul experience for Christ to change us completely. All it takes sometimes is one person with a lot of zeal and love for Christ.”
Students and adults alike said the day was a success.
“I liked it altogether,” said Semoha Cahill, an 11th-grade student. “Learning about the first church and St. Paul and how he started out. It was a really good experience.”
The event organizer thought the day had gone according to plan.
“We wanted it to be relaxed so that the kids could choose,” Donnelly said. “It went as we hoped it would.”
The pilgrimage came to a sweet ending with an ice cream social.
“It was a wonderful turnout, many kids came,” said Pauline Sister Elizabeth DeDomenico. “They enjoyed themselves and were attentive. They got involved and asked questions.
“The nice thing was that they walked from place to place like a real pilgrimage, and that they received the indulgence. They got to meet kids from other parishes. It was a great day. We should do more things like this in the future,” she said.