cropped-assisi-22.jpgOur 11th Annual Fall Pilgrimage
November 8th through November 16th

For the eleventh consecutive year, the Assisi Project will sponsor a week-long, small-group pilgrimage to Assisi, Italy. Each year, our pilgrims literally walk in the footsteps of Saint Francis and Saint Clare. This year will be no different! From November 8th through November 16th, we will journey again to Assisi and to the Franciscan Sanctuary at La Verna. In addition, as part of the Catholic Community of Gloucester & Rockport’s “Year for Vocations”, we will explore how God called Francis and Clare to live the Gospel of Christ in profoundly different ways.

Each morning on pilgrimage, we will begin with Morning Prayer and Holy Mass. Father Jim Achadinha, our priest chaplain, will celebrate Masses at the Basilica of Saint Francis, the Basilica of Saint Clare, the Basilica of Our Lady of Angels (Porziuncola Chapel), the Carcerci Hermitage, and the Sanctuary at La Verna. Each afternoon, our pilgrims will have free time and guidance to explore Assisi at their own pace and to visit its many churches, museums, cafes, and shops. Each evening, we will gather as a community for Evening Prayer, supper, a spiritual reflection, and faith sharing.

As a fellowship of pilgrims, we will explore the historic Basilicas of Saint Francis and Saint Clare. Each of these holy shrines contains the tombs of the saints, holy relics, historic frescoes, and other priceless works of art, along with quiet chapels for personal prayer and worship. We will also visit the Cathedral of Saint Rufinus, where Francis and Clare were baptized; the Church of Saint Damian, where Christ spoke to Francis and hastened his conversion; the Carceri Hermitage, where Francis and his first followers retreated for solitude and silent prayer; and the little chapel known as the Porziuncola, which is considered the home church of the worldwide Franciscan community.

In addition, we will spend leisurely afternoons in and around the Piazza del Commune, Assisi’s city center, with its ancient Roman temple (now a Catholic Church consecrated to the Blessed Mother), sidewalk cafes, and countless shops. Our more adventurous pilgrims will also have an opportunity to visit the Rocca Maggiore, the great medieval fortress with its stunning views of Assisi, Mount Subasio, and the Spoleto Valley. And finally, we will travel to La Verna, the mountain sanctuary in Tuscany where Saint Francis received the stigmata. At La Verna, we will celebrate Mass, enjoy a traditional Tuscan lunch, and participate in the daily procession that commemorates how Francis received the five wounds of the Crucified Christ.

The cost of this extraordinary pilgrimage is $3,499 per person and includes roundtrip airfare and fees (from Boston Logan Airport); all ground transportation (except for personal taxi services in Assisi); seven night accommodations (single room and bathroom) at Casa Santa Brigida in Assisi; and all meals in the guest house (breakfast, lunch, and supper). Prospective pilgrims should note that this pilgrimage involves some strenuous physical activity, including walking up and down steep hills and stairways. Please also note that access to many pilgrimage sites in Italy is limited to those with physical disabilities.

Finally, our pilgrims will benefit from the expertise of our two experienced pilgrimage leaders, Father Jim Achadinha and Cliff Garvey, who have visited Assisi more than two dozen times. For more information about the Assisi Project’s 11th Annual Fall Pilgrimage, a unique opportunity to explore the lives and vocations of Saint Francis and Saint Clare, please contact Cliff Garvey at c.garvey@ymail.com. Note: A portion of each pilgrimage purchase will be donated to the Saint Ann Church Restoration Fund in memory of our dear friend Deacon Raymond Wellbank (1951-2017). Saint Francis of Assisi, pray for us! Saint Clare of Assisi, pray for us! Our Lady of Angels, pray for us!



Deacon Raymond Wellbank (1951-2017)

Over the years, the Assisi Project has considered recognizing a “Person of the Year” on several occasions. That person would be someone who shared our core values and beliefs as a fellowship of “Franciscans in Spirit.” That person would be someone who did not just profess faith in the Gospel of Christ, but sought to live it with their whole heart. That person would be someone who embodied the spirit of Saint Francis and Saint Clare by their faith, ministry, and particular walk of life. Over the course of our first decade, we never actually named a “Person of the Year.” However, at the close of our tenth anniversary year (2007-2017), we decided to change that.

We prayerfully considered several worthy candidates. We thought about naming Pope Francis as our “Person of the Year.” Throughout his pontificate, the Holy Father has been steadfast in stressing Christ’s message of compassion, love, and mercy over blind (and sometimes callous) obedience to doctrine and tradition. We also strongly considered naming Bishop Robert McElroy of San Diego. Unlike many of his brother bishops, Bishop McElroy has displayed uncommon courage in speaking out against the rise of bigotry, hatred, and violence in our nation’s political culture. And we prayed about naming Sister Anna Maria, one of the Poor Ladies at the Basilica of Saint Clare in Assisi. At age 90, Sister Anna Maria is the last of the so-called extern sisters; and she serves as a daily and public witness to the Gospel life of poverty, chastity, and obedience that has been the heart of the Franciscan tradition for more than eight centuries.

In the end, however, tragic circumstances clarified our choice for “Person of the Year.” On December 9th, the Reverend Mr. Raymond Wellbank died suddenly at his home in Gloucester, Massachusetts. Deacon Ray was just 66 years old. He joined our parishes in the Catholic Community of Gloucester & Rockport just three years ago. Deacon Ray and his beloved wife, Patti, moved here from Pennsylvania where they had lived, worked, and raised their family. Their marriage was a true and loving partnership. So, in many ways, Ray’s diaconate was Patti’s diaconate, too. Together, Ray and Patti soon became known for their quick smiles, warm hearts, and good works.

Called and ordained to the diaconate, Deacon Ray was eager to proclaim the Gospel and to serve at God’s altar. He preached at Mass every Friday and one Sunday each month. And sure enough, Deacon Ray presided over his fair share of baptisms, weddings, and funeral services. Deacon Ray could have confined his ministry to the liturgy and sacraments. But he did not. Almost immediately after being assigned to our parishes, Deacon Ray immersed himself in the life of our faith community. He welcomed parishioners to Mass. He visited the elderly, the disabled, and the sick in local nursing homes. He prayed with grieving families. He prepared parents and godparents for the baptism of their children. He volunteered with the Holy Family Parish Women’s Guild. He served as spiritual director for the Saint Vincent de Paul Society.

And almost every Friday morning after Mass, Deacon Ray and Patti joined a group of parishioners for breakfast at a local restaurant. Gatherings like this happen in every parish in every part of the world. But these gatherings seemed somehow different. By all accounts, Deacon Ray always seemed to share some encouragement, kind word, or bit of advice that made someone’s day better, blessed, and brighter. Shortly after his passing, members of this “breakfast club” stood in Our Lady’s Church and wept not only for our community’s loss of a dedicated deacon, but also for their individual loss of a dear friend and wise counselor.

In its pastoral plan, the Catholic Community of Gloucester & Rockport dedicates itself to three values: prayer, fellowship, and service; and a compelling vision to live the Gospel, share God’s love, and rebuild the Church. In his all too brief time with us, Deacon Ray exemplified these values in all of this thoughts, words, and actions among the good people of Holy Family Parish and Our Lady of Good Voyage Parish. And he embodied this vision as a husband, father, and grandfather; as a friend and fellow parishioner; and as a deacon of God’s Holy Church.

Five short weeks after his sudden passing, we remain shocked by our loss, saddened beyond measure for his family and friends, and deeply sorry that we did not have one last chance to simply say: “Thanks, Deacon Ray.” It is a small thing for a small fellowship to recognize Deacon Ray as our “Person of the Year.” Perhaps it is not enough. But it is one heartfelt and humble way of expressing our gratitude and love for Deacon Ray Wellbank. At the end of Mass, Deacon Ray would dismiss the congregation with these words: “Glorify the Lord with your life!” And so he did. May Deacon Ray rest always in the loving embrace of our Risen Lord.


About Us

Founded in 2007, the Assisi Project is a Fellowship of Franciscans in Spirit that seeks to live the Gospel of Jesus Christ through the inspiration of Saint Francis and Saint Clare of Assisi. Our mission is to serve the Church and to give witness to the Good News of Christ through formation and prayer, pilgrimage and retreat, and educating others about our way of life. In 2018, we will lead our eleventh annual fall pilgrimage to Assisi; meet monthly for Mass, faith formation, and faith sharing; and offer adults other opportunities to experience a Franciscan day of prayer and reflection. For more information about the Assisi Project and upcoming opportunities for formation, prayer, and pilgrimage in the Franciscan spiritual tradition, please contact Cliff Garvey at c.garvey@ymail.com. May the Lord give you peace!

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