“What an amazing experience!”
Little did Scott Jakubowski dream when he entered our internal seminary or novitiate that he might carry the relic of St. Vincent’s heart… through St. Peter’s Square… to the resting place near where Pope Francis would greet 11,000 Vincentian Family pilgrims… and, in a very real sense, share the vantage point of the crowd that Pope himself had. Yet that is exactly what happened during the recent Vincentian Family symposium!
Scott Jakubowski (Western Province) and Cong Le (Eastern Province) from this year’s class joined Joseph Swariz (Austrian German Province) and Rok Zlender (Province of Slovenia) from last years novitiate class experienced all this as they carried the 150-pound platform bearing the reliquary containing St. Vincent’s heart. This experience gave a whole new meaning to “being formed after the heart of Vincent”.
Scott shares the following reflection of his experience at the Vincentian Symposium, Rome, October 11-18, 2017
The first thing I recognize is the unbelievable opportunity to attend this symposium on behalf of both the Eastern and Western Provinces of the Congregation of the Mission and their benefactors! It was truly a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity and just being able to go was a true blessing!
Also, none of this would have been possible if not for the dedication and hard work of the Vincentian Family Office especially Fathers Joe Agostino and Flavio Pereira Tercero and Daughters of Charity Francely Perez and Marge Clifford. So much of the responsibility of planning this incredible event that brough together people from 99 countries and many languages fell on their shoulders. They are truly incredible.
Father Sy Peterka organized a group under the banner of St. Vincent’s Parish in Germantown and shepherded us for the week’s activities like a champion. Thank you God for these wonderful people.
Thursday night, I attended the Miraculous Medal Novena held at the Archbasilica of St. John Lateran with Fr Jack Timlin and Joseph Swaris. We arrived at the Basilica (with standing room only) just in time to hear Fr. Carl Pieber call to order the symposium’s festivities with the opening blessing and multi-lingual rosary, followed by the Novena.
It was such a joy to hear Fr. Carl and Fr. Joe Agostino leading and preaching along with the Vincentian Family. We were way in the back standing alongside family members from Cameroon, Kenya, the Philippines and many other nations!
Friday, we attended the break-out sessions in English and met up with Joseph Swaris, Rok Zlender, Fr. Dennis Holschnieder and several priests from the Western Province as well. A true homecoming indeed! I sat in on sessions in English, Spanish and Italian and met several hard-working priests and Daughters of Charity. From Sister Betty, I learned that “none of us are strangers” and “there are no strangers!”
Unfortunately, Jimmy, Cong, Joseph, Rok and I had to rush away early in the afternoon to attend a rehearsal session at the Vatican for Saturday’s Papal Audience. At the Vatican, we were ushered through the San Uffizio Gate behind the Vatican walls and got to walk around the Papal Audience platform and up the ramp of St. Peter’s Square to where the Pope sat during the audience to practice carrying St. Vincent de Paul’s Heart. Wowee!!!
Then we rushed back to the Palavacchia to hear more keynote speakers. The other seminarians and I had a walking tour of the Santa Sabina parks and the Keyhole of the Knights of Malta gate in the southern part of the city. We also ate a lot of gelato.
Saturday morning, we all got up way too early and were at the Vatican before sunrise. The seminarians and I met the priest and the Daughter of Charity who were transporting the Heart of St Vincent behind the San Uffizio gate of the Vatican and stood by until we were ready to carry it at 10 am.
We walked carrying the 150-pound platform with the heart through the audience and up the steps of St Peter’s Square to await Pope Francis. We all sat to the left of the Pope and had a great vantage point of the thousands of Vincentians and the Holy Father. After, we also carried the Heart down the steps of St. Peter’s back to the guard of the Vincentians. Many people were visibly moved by being in the presence of the Heart and the Pope stopped to venerate it for a few moments as well. Again, what an amazing experience!
After the audience, the seminarians and I went up to the St Peter’s Copulaand toured the Basilica and bought lots of souvenirs for our friends and family. They also have a café up there, very conveniently placed for our Gelato! Saturday evening, I attended a soccer match at the Stadio Olimpico to see Roma v Napoli. Needless to say, I learned a lot of Italian phrases not suitable for repetition!
Sunday, we loaded up on the buses from our hotel to Basilica of Saint Paul Outside the Walls for a mass with our Superior General presiding. I got a front and center view because I was asked to bring one of the gifts to Fr. Tomas during the Offertory. Wowee again! It was such a moving event to see and hear all the languages and countries represented and all the Vincentians priests sitting up front. A true inspiration!
Monday, Jimmy, Cong and I went to Assisi. We were moved by the holy ground the city stands upon. I was privileged to join the Western Province priests Fr. Jeremy Dixon and Fr. Tony Dosen in a private mass in the Chapel of Peace in St. Francis’ Basilica. Another, once in a lifetime opportunity. We ate and prayed a lot there. So moving and inspirational.
Tuesday, I took a train trip to Castel Gandolfoto visit the Apostolic Residence and see the lake. I took the Garden and Museum tours and was blown away by the beauty of the city. I had lunch on the lake and soaked my tired feet in the lake for 2 hours. There’s no denying God exists with such a peaceful and beautiful place as this city!
“What an amazing experience!”