Praying With You

Vespers with the Pope


“Often we become what we pray for.”

So writes the great scripture scholar Jesuit Father John Donohue.

He adds: “Prayers of peace create people of peace.

Prayers of healing form hearts of compassion.

Even the emptiness of seemingly unanswered prayers

are filled by the gift of the Holy Spirit.”

While in Rome, these were our prayerful intentions, sometime at Mass, often in the quiet of prayer at sacred shines. But always with the hope and love for all those we know, and even for those we may not know. Here are a few of our intentions.

For Joseph Ramirez on his 21st birthday

For my grandmother, Cuca Quezada, that she stays strong and faithful, Santi Orona

For my family, Gabriella Campbell

For my family that they stay faithful and strong, Claire Freeman

For my Family as they recover and heal from the loss of my grandparents, Matt Soares

For my Family, especially my grandparents, Alex Louie

For my family, and boyfriend, Kristy Abel

For my the Ortiza and Acunas family, Brianna Ortiz

For the Gutierrez family, and my family in the Philippines, and all those serving in the Armed Forces. Paula Gutierrez

I pray for Debbie that she is strong and know she has friends and family here for her.

For the wife of our family friend (Sharon Hondashelt), as she is coping with her first round of chemotherapy.

For my family, Eliz Bella

For the Conlon Family that God shows them his grace and love, Brooke Conlon

For the all those in our Saint Mary’s College family back home.

I want to take time to pray for Sharon Hondasheldt, the wife of a family friend as she recovers from hip surgery as well as beginning chemotherapy for cancer. I pray that she has a speedy and safe recovery.I also want to pray for my parents and family back in the United States. — Paula Guiterrez

I would like to pray for my family back home that God may bless my brother in his job and that he may be able to keep it. I pray that my mom and dad may have the strength to continue working, living, and loving life, even though their health conditions. For my boyfriend’s family, who have been so wonderful to me that God will bless them with many blessings.

For my mom Jean, that God bless her in everything she does. She provided me with so much and I am very grateful. Also, for my grandma Barbara, that God continues to bless her with good health and love. For the rest of my family back in the United States, that God grant them with grace, love, and good health. -Lisa Doherty.

In prayers of Thanksgiving, for my grandparents and parents, aunts, and uncles, and friends, that have supported me through the years, guided me, and cared for me with unconditional love. May God bless them with good health and many more years of happiness. -Alex Louie

I would like to pray for my cousin Gilbert, a marine in Afghanistan, and all the women and men serving in the armed forces, so that God may protect them from the harm and troubles they endure. -Joseph Ramirez

For my Mom, Virginia Gentry, Prof. DGA

For Prof. David Cawthon, Prof. DGA

For Brother Michael Avila, Prof. DGA

For Roxann Ott,  a friend who is in cancer recovery. Father Mike R

For Levinia (Mom) PJ (Dad) and my entire family that we stay healthy and safe

For my Grandma LALA, that God bless her with good health

For our families for their encouragement and support to make this pilgrimage possible

My Grammy Mary that God bless her with good health

For the Redd Family that God shows them love in their time of grief

For my brother Alex as well as the rest of the family

For Connor Redd and all my family back home. Good health and safety for all.

For my mom and dad, and everyone in the group.

For Sister Phyllis and the Georgian Count community of Sisters of Mercy. Fr. Mike R

For my Uncle Ralph who is in the hospital and my Aunt Betty. Fr. Mike R

For my sister Marian and Phil, Philip and Tim — my prayers and encouragement. Father Mike R

For my cousin Amy, for she stay strong through all her medical needs and keeps a smile on her face

For the family of my brother’s friend- that they stay strong and keep their heads up after lung cancer took his life.

For my parents, Larry and Lula Campbell, who have done anything and everything to get me where I am today. And for my siblings Natalie, Miguel and Andrew who are not only my family, but my best friends, that God may watch over them, not only while I am in Italy, but for the rest of our lives. Bella Campbell

For my sister, Kelly, who had radiation treatment for her hyper-thyroidism, That the symptoms will cease. For the well being of my brother, Jake, that he continues to do well in school and basketball. Also for the well being of my mom and grandparents, that my mom continues to do amazing work. Kristy Abel

For Debbie B, her husband last week and she is a good family friend. I pray that she knows she has friends and family who are here and care for her. For my family, who has supported me in everything I have done. I pray for their safety and good health in the years to come.  Brianna Ortiz

For my mother Levinia Guido who is suffering from Lupus, that she stays healthy and that she not have too many flare ups, not only for this year, but the years to come in the future. Camille Guido

For my granddaughter,  Madeline Angerame, on the celebration of her 11th birthday. For a special intention for my family. For the generosity of the Brothers of the Christian Schools throughout the world and their mission of faith, community, and service. Joann Angerame

For the Gannon and Sanguinet families who both recently welcomed new babies to their families. May they remain healthy as they grow through the years. Jenae Gaskin


Where did our time in Rome go? Jan Term was so quick, and yet so perfect. It seems we just got here and now we have had our final seminar class.

We ended with a Reconciliation Service that allowed us to take time to reflect on our relationships with God, others and self. Together through prayer, scripture, song and ritual we allowed the grace of forgiveness and mercy to renew us as individuals and as a pilgrim community.  There was time for individual confession and absolution.

That afternoon found us at Santa Maria Maggiore Basilica for Mass and a guided tour.  This completed our pilgrimage of the four major Roman basilicas — Saint Peter’s, Saint Paul Outside the Wall, San Giovanni in Laterna.   It was a very special celebration of the Eucharist.

I continue to be filled with great joy and blessings as I see the faith of our students.  From there  we walked to the Lay Center for a final presentation on Marian Theology and Iconography.

We had an opportunity to share our personal experiences of the time in Rome, and then enjoyed a wonderful meal. A great way to conclude this pilgrimage journey!  We still have Mass and a meal together on Sunday night before the journey back to Moraga!  

Father Sal R


What does it means to be Catholic in Rome?  As a person who attended Catholic school all my life, I came to Rome with the idea that I knew what my faith was, and where that faith came from.

However, once I took my first step into Saint Peter’s Square, the “goose bumps” all over my body told something different. Rome and Saint Peter’s Basilica are truly a Catholic’s delight. Although the overwhelming feeling one gets from the art and architecture are inspirational, for me the community and togetherness is the thing that really stands out.

From the nuns, to the brothers, to the priests, and even the lay people — these are all my brothers and sisters, and this is what Catholicism represents. Together we can make a difference in the world through our faith. Christian Brother Alberto Gomez so wisely said: “We all share a religion that can change the world, and that it has already changed each of us.” Janae Gaskin


Today, Peter Stemp of “Solidarity for Sudan,” and a Saint Mary’s graduate, raised an important question. He asked us: “What is important to you?” And he added, “Think about the person you want to be, and be that person!”

Wow! It took me quite a while to think about this simple, but yet provoking question. However, I came to realize that his question takes a lifetime to answer. There are certain pieces of the puzzle on the “road of life.” Some of them we keep, but others we are forced to throw away.

One of the biggest and most important piece for me — that I have found and kept, mainly through this journey, is my faith in God. I also realize during this pilgrimage in Rome that a community of believers is even more important. Visiting these sacred sites with my fellow pilgrims — where early Christians also prayed and worshiped has been awe inspiring. This, in turn, has strengthened my faith as a Catholic. It is through this group of friends that my faith has deepened and it is through this group that I have become a better person.

Although we have one week left, I will continue to learn more about my faith and more about myself. With this mindset, I know I can conquer anything.

Rome, look out! You still have one week of us. And we’re ready…

Joseph Ramirez


Today, I  find myself celebrating a 60th birthday with our group starting with Mass — and onto food and gelato…all those good things that are here in Rome! What a celebration! Father Sal R

By a wonderful chance, I met Marjorie Weeks, a veteran of Church media, on the step of Santa Susanna — as I entered for the 10:30 AM Mass. For decades Marjorie was the go-to person in the Vatican’s Office of Social Communications. She worked with all members of the American media, and back in the 1970’s, tutored me in the ways of the Vatican press corps. In an all too brief exchange with her, she recalled those days to me.

I was there at Santa Susanna, at the so-called “American church” conducted by the Paulist Fathers for the American community living in Rome. Father Greg Apparcel, the church’s pastor, preached about Father Isaac Hecker and his founding the congregation 153 years ago. Quite effective homily, I might add — on this the Third Sunday in Ordinary Time.

My prayers this morning are extended to the late Paulist Father Elwood “Bud” Kaiser. What an inspiration he was — to me and countless priests and religious in the communications and media ministry. I was praying for the intentions of my Los Angeles friends John and Patti O’Keefe and their children and grandchildren. They have been supporters of the Paulists at their home parish, Saint Paul’s, and, good friends of Father Kaiser’s and Paulist Productions.

After Mass, I went out for a cappuccino break with Saint Mary’s students Sophie Jacobucci and Mark Nava, who are studying this semester at John Cabot University. Father Mike R


We spent Saturday in Assisi. I celebrated Mass at the Basilica, and we toured the major churches related to Saints Francis and Clare. It was very cold, and began to snow, making all the outdoor Franciscan Nativity scenes even more beautiful. Had lots of good pastries, cappucinos; but thankfully our “pray walk” and the extraordinary presence of Sister Sue meant so much to each of us. And of course, we went downhill to the very site of San Damiano, and uphill on that very steep terrain — well, let’s say —  the effort burnt off a few of those calories!  Father Sal R

In the Basilica of Saint Clare,we prayed before the very crucifix which long-ago spoke to Francis: “Go, Francis, and repair my house which, as you see, is falling into ruin.”

Our prayful meditation: “Most high, glorious God, cast your light into the darkness of my heart. Give me, Lord, right faith, firm hope, perfect charity and profound humility, with wisdom and perception, so that I may carry out what is truly your holy will. Amen

Father Mike R

We pray that as our group of students travel to the town of Assisi, may the grace open our hearts to imitate and follow the virtues of Saint Francis. May this day allow our pilgrim hearts to appreciate the simple joys of life and the revealing earth of sister sun and moon, and  reflect the imagination of the Almighty Creator.  Matt Fontan
Assisi is a very serene and blessed place.
Our entire class woke up extremely early at around four or five in the morning to hop on the bus. The drive was around three hours.
Our day was filled with so many things but my most memorable site in Assisi was the tomb of St. Francis.
It was amazing to be able to pray by his tomb and reflect.
I find St. Francis to be a fascinating saint who has touched the lives of many individuals.
I feel blessed to have had the opportunity to see the city of Assisi where St. Francis roamed the streets from his youth.
While we were visiting Assisi it was extremely cold however something magical happened it started to snow!
It was snowing very lightly and perfectly shaped snowflakes began to fall from the sky.
I found that  the snow added to the majestic feeling of Assisi.
I learned a great deal about the life of St. Francis and St. Clare and feel very blessed to have traveled to this sacred place.
Camille Guido

My experience at Assisi was a special one.  After visiting the church of St. Francis, the class met with Sister Sue, a sister for Poor Clare’s, for a wonderful lunch. Sister Sue happened to sit our table and we all started to talk. She had the biggest smile on her face with all the thing everyone said. But, when I told her my name was Claire, she was so excited. Never thought someone would get so excited about a name. Then she asked questions and she was so excited that my middle name is Agnes and that I was one of five.

Apparently St. Clare was one of five as well and she had a sister by the name of Agnes. How amazing!

Sister Sue Nugent is from Canada but has been to a lot of different places all around the world in support of the the Poor Clare’s, and helping those in need.

She mentioned that she once worked in the San JoaquinValley of CA. I got so excited and asked where in the valley because I am from Bakersfield. She then started to laugh and put on that great big smile of hers. Sister Sue asked if I knew of a Father Craig Harrison. Well he is the priest at St. Francis of Assisi Parish and Mddle School, a great friend of my family’s and especially good friends with my aunt.

Sister Sue and Father Craig worked together in Merced, and are very good friends. What are the odds that you meet someone who knows one of your own priests… thousands of miles away? It’s definitely a small world after all.

Claire Freeman

Assisi, the Tuscan hill town of St. Francis and St. Claire, and the site of San Damiano, is where I found the most peace on my pilgrimage.  Assisi was one of the places that I was looking forward to. And as soon as I arrived there I knew why.

I grew up at Mission San Luis Rey, which is run by the Franciscan Friars, so I was familiar with the Franciscan way of life, and for the longest time, I actually thought Franciscans’ were the only order of priests and brothers. The Franciscans have helped define my way of looking at religion and the church.

Frankly, I was not aware of the struggles that St. Francis went through until we viewed the film Brother Sun, Sister Moon. In this film about St. Francis and his forming the Franciscans gave me a deeper understanding of religious life.

When I stepped foot off the bus in Assisi, I was speechless.  With its amazing panoramic view of the countryside everywhere in sight — it was absolutely beautiful.

The buildings in the town are vast in size, and the roads so steep that they hug the hills. Within the town, there were individual stores selling authentic hand-made goods that cannot be found in a commercial city or a shopping mall. Trust me, I’ve looked. Restaurants,and small bakeries, called “pasticcerias,” were everywhere you turn and eager to feed hungry pilgrims.

I found so much peace within myself and with nature.

Visiting San Damiano was my peak experience in Assisi because I was able to see why St. Francis was so passionate about his mission to the poor, and I could see first-hand the hard work he put into this church. This was very church that needed him — to give all his strength and courage to rebuild.

On our trip, we experienced snow flurries – a wonderful way to top off this remarkable day. I feel so blessed that I was able to share my experience with my friends, this Saint Mary’s family that we have become.

Brianna Ortiz

This Saturday in Rome, we woke up super early, like 4:30 early, to make our departure time of 5:30 AM. We were on our way to Assisi. Why? Assisi is the place that honors the holy memory of Saint Francis.

He was a man that gave up his old life, renouncing his father’s wealth to live a much simpler life – one filled with abstinence and service to the poor – this was his search of a greater spirituality and God.

The Basilica, built in the 13th century and in his honor, is huge. It is able to be seen from a few miles away.  This church actually has two levels. The lower church is where the Francis is buried. His tomb is directly under the upper church’s’ altar.

On this trip, I came come to find out that many churches in Italy have the remains of holy women and men below the main altar.

When we arrived in Assisi, with its magnificent view, is truly beautiful with small houses, majestic trees, and the grassy areas covering the hillsides.

Once in the lower church, we were able to have a short mass in the side chapel. Father Sal told us about our own vocation and how you never know what God has in store for us throughout life.

After our tour around the upper and lower churches, we went to go eat at a local trattoria, whose menu included the most amazing plate of lasagna, followed by a second plate of sausage, pork and potatoes. It was superb!

After our lunch we followed Sister Sue, who showed us the Cathedral church in honor of Saint Clare, the long-time friend of St. Francis; and then down a very steep hill to the sacred place where Saint Francis first heard his a calling from God – the small monastery and church of San Damiano.

This was the amazing place for me, where I was really able to focus on myself and my faith, and how I think God is planning for me to serve. I loved this trip!

Camila Castaneda


Today, we pray for blessings upon our families back in the U.S.A.  As we grow into a deeper relationship with God on our pilgrimage here in Rome, may our families also experience the grace of God that comes through our prayers.
Matt Fontan


Today, we pray for the unity of all Christians — that we grow in understanding on another, to be able to live together in harmony. We pray to God for those of us on this pilgrimage and that we recognize each other as brothers and sisters in one human family. Matt Fontan

We woke up early, on Wednesday, Jan. 19th — and hopped on the Rome Metro with Father Sal. The previous night Father Sal and Father Mike had a bet – over which mode of transportation was faster. Well, Father Mike’s group took the 913 bus, and won the race to Saint Peter’s – there they were, at the entrance to the great audience hall.

We were all excited over seeing Pope Benedict and the papal audience. Our seats were great and right on the aisle. Unfortunately for me and Matt Sores, the Pope came through a side entrance, so my seat turned out not so great. But we had a good vantage point, and everything in the vast hall was televised on large TV screens, the ones you might see at a baseball or football stadium.

After an anxious hour or so of patient waiting and talking to Matt and others, the Pope emerged from “stage left” and everyone in the hall the crowd cheered wildly.

There were thousands of people there from all over the world, and yet we shared Morning Prayer in about eight languages. Language by language, a priest spokesman came out and read the respective reading and the Pope would give a particular message on Christian Unity. After that, the spokesman read a list of the pilgrims from the particular part of the world depending on the language-group. From Latin America, there was a group from Mexico and another from Brazil.  There were some African pilgrims and a group of women from Slovenia who sang amazingly well. There were, of course, plenty of Italian pilgrims.

At last, the English-speaking spokesman with a deep resonating voice came forward and announced the pilgrims from the United States. They went through a few East Coast groups and finally he announced “Saint Mary’s College of California.”

At Prof. DGA’s prompting, we got up out of seats, and sang our class anthem, “Magnificat.” Although we did not harmonize quite like The Beach Boys, the Pope waived to us and appreciated our humble effort. He then gave everyone, including our loved ones at home, his apostolic blessing. So the audience with Pope Benedict came to an end. It was a great experience for me and my Jan Term class.

Santi Orona


On Monday we visited the Baptistry at the Basilica of Saint John Lateran, which we found out is actually the Basilica of the Savior! Our time there following an excellent presentation on the theology of Baptism by Donna Orsuto of the Lay Center, was another opportunity to walk back in time with the early Christians. Although the baptistry itself has many layers of art, there is still a sense of simple beauty as we recall the radical new life embraced by the early Christians.

Our celebration of the Eucharist that followed, was a time for us to renew our own baptism. I asked the students to recall who their godparents are, and to perhaps find out if their family has kept photos, videos, and the baptismal candle from their baptism. Like those who have gone before us for almost 2000 years, we are all called to live radical new life through our baptism. A life that reflects the new relationship with God and also our new relationship with one another. “There is no Jew nor Greek, no slave nor free, no male nor female, but all are one in Christ”. An appropriate message about the dignity of our common humanity as we also remember Martin Luther King Jr on this American holiday.

A final note – I continue to be impressed by the participation of the students at our liturgies (prayers and masses). They are respectful, attentive and participate in responding and singing!

Ciao tutti! Father Sal R


“I thought I was going to view the Sacrament Chapel?” Instead, I was enlisted to celebrate Mass in such regal liturgical surroundings. We traveled by train to Orvieto with its 14th century zebra-striped Duomo (Cathedral). Che bello!, Breath-takingly beautiful, this is the very place where Saint Thomas Aquinas wrote his Eucharistic poem the “Pange Lingua.”

Well worth the trip, and one hour outside of Rome, we traveled on a splendidly beautiful sunny Sunday. In Orvieto, we took the funicular train up to the old town area.  Robert White directed us to the Ristorante Antico Bucchero, for a delicious and authentic Umbrian menu of wild boar and rabbit. Well, not for me exactly, I had other appetites – and too much food, and all those bottles of Orvieto wine!

So we arrived at the Duomo in time for the evening 7 PM Sunday Mass.  I saw a young priest, who I thought was going to be celebrating the Mass, and introduced myself. He did not speak much English, but was very welcoming. I told him that this was my first visit to Orvieto, and that I was a Salvatorian priest.

I followed him inside the Sacrament Chapel, and next thing I found myself in the cathedral sacristy meeting the Canon of the Cathedral, who insisted that I concelebrate the Mass!! I tried to get out of this – by explained I was not dressed appropriately — black tennis shoes and jeans? “Not to matter,” he said.

I tried another tack, how about my size – would they have a small sized alb?, Immediately, they produced the appropriate size for me. So I pleaded, “I don’t speak enough appropriate liturgical Italian!” The Canon smiled serenely. He replied “Be (the all purpose Italian reply to any comment). You know the Mass, come and stand by me!” In other words, “fake it!”

So there I was in the long, long procession going toward the high altar – at the stunned amazement of my Saint Mary’s friends who looked on — in great delight. It was a wonderful experience of hospitality, and another blessing of this Roman pilgrimage with our students.

After the Mass, Monsignore Marco Nunzi, the Canon of Orvieto, gave each of us a wonderfully warm greeting. He asked about California, and beamed with pride over this jewel of a Cathedral, of which he was supremely proud. And for good reason!

Father Sal R


Prayer intentions are an important aspect of our pilgrimage. We’ve been praying for those injured and deceased in Tuscon, Arizon, for those suffering from the destructive floods in Brazil and Australia, our fellow-students and faculty at Saint Mary’s, and family and friends. Send us your intentions — and we’ll pray for you on Saturday in Assisi.


Rome on a “Clear Day”

Our first full day in Roma was filled with touring! I enjoyed being with a small group of our students as we enjoyed the
beautiful weather. After a short Metro ride we saw the view of Rome from the Spanish Steps, tossed our coins in the Trevi Fountain, and walked through the Pantheon. Our lunch spot was perfect! Upon recommedation of Camilla whose family travels to Rome and her knowledge of Rick Steve’s suggested spots, we ate at “Enoteca Corsi” which is on the Via Del Gesu! (Jesus Street!!) It was walking into a family home and be welcomed with a homecooked meal.

Later we gathered together for our fist Mass here at the Christian Brothers Generalate in the small chapel. I celebrated a ‘teaching mass’ with opportunities to learn about each part of the Eucharistic celebration. Althought ‘jet lag’ has set upon most of us, the liturgy was a time to pray, sing, and share the ‘holy presence of God’ with each other. Some of our prayer intentions included remember Connor Redd and his family, thanksgiving for family support, family member and all serving in the Armed Forces, Joseph on his 21st birthday, and healing prayers for Virginia Gentry, Dan Cawthorn, Beth Dobkins, and Roxann Ott.

We will be adding intentions as we continue our pilgrimage here in Rome.
So for now…Ciao Tutti! Father Salvatore Ragusa, SDS/Chaplain


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