Students head abroad for Catholic pilgrimage


May 19, 2017

PORTALES — Three Eastern New Mexico University students are traveling abroad for a Catholic pilgrimage.

Maggie Gomez, a new Eastern graduate, her sister, Hannah Gomez, and friend, Monique Martinez, all members of the Thomas More Newman Center (TMNC) Catholic group, leave Saturday for a pilgrimage to Poland, France and Spain.

The trio will travel to Warsaw, Poland to meet their group, led by Sarah Swafford and her husband Andy.

The Swaffords are Catholic ministers and speakers who teach on the concept of “Emotional Virtue.”

“They teach basic respect and dignity for human life and living respectfully in today’s world, which is not always the easiest thing to do,” said Hannah Gomez.

“(Sarah Swafford) talks a lot about developing healthy relationships (romantic or otherwise), and how to build virtues within our own characters,” said Maggie Gomez.

The main portion of the pilgrimage will take place across Poland “following the footsteps” of Polish Saints; John Paul II, Maria Faustina Kowalska, and Maximillian Kolbe, according to Maggie Gomez.

“I think it’ll be really cool to see where Saint John Paul II was from, and learn how real he was and how much impact he had on the world,” said Hannah Gomez

“I’m very excited,” said Martinez.

“I feel very blessed,” said Martinez, “I hope to gain a new perspective on the world and on myself. I’m sure being able to experience different cultures and history firsthand will be very insightful.”

“My goal is to deepen my faith and grow individually, also to have a better understanding of Divine Mercy and my faith to share with people after the pilgrimage,” said Maggie Gomez.

According to Maggie Gomez, Divine Mercy is a message that Saint Faustina spoke about.

“(Jesus) didn’t come for the righteous, he came for the sinners,” she said. “The good news of the gospel is that we have a merciful, forgiving God.”

Maggie Gomez continued to say, “the (Divine Mercy) message is for the whole world, but it’s specifically for people who’d felt they were being condemned and who have felt they’ve had to prove themselves righteous to go to heaven.”

Maggie Gomez is the only seasoned traveler in the group and headed the planning process for extending the trip past Poland.

The organized part of the trip ends in Krakow, Poland, where the trio will depart from the group and make their way to Barcelona, Spain.

“I’ve been on a choir tour a few years ago with the ENMU choir, we went to Florence, Rome and Venice, Italy,” said Maggie Gomez, “I think going on that trip gave me more confidence to go on this one. It’s less nerve wracking having been out of the country before and it’s been okay.”

On the other hand, Hannah Gomez has never been on a plane.

“We’ll see how this goes,” she said, laughing.

After visiting La Sagrada Familia, The Sacred Family Cathedral, and other holy sites in Spain, the group will move to Lourdes, France. Lourdes is one of the nine Marian apparition sites approved by the Catholic Church.

Steven Brust, the faculty advisor for TMNC, will join the students in Lourdes on during his summer travels.

According to Brust, Lourdes is where the Virgin Mary appeared to a young girl, Bernadette referring to herself as “The Immaculate Conception.”

“Mary told her to dig in the dirt and out came a water spring which flows to this day,” Brust said. “There have been many miracles at Lourdes since then.”

“ I hope the girls will be able to experience the infinite merciful love that our Lord has for them in the healing and strength He can provide. I hope they will come away more fully transformed in Christ and convicted to live out and be a witness to his truth and love. This is the experience I had and I am going back for the continued healing and strength needed to continue on in the journey towards eternal life,” he said.


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