After following in the footsteps of two iconic figures of the Catholic faith, a pair of Alvernia students embarked on a pilgrimage of self-discovery that changed their lives.
By Elizabeth Shimer Bowers
Assisi is a small Italian village. With fewer than 26,000 townspeople, its quaintness is its charm. But the main attraction, drawing 4 million tourists annually, is a link to two spiritual giants who, by their saintly examples more than 800 years ago, changed the world. And continue to change the lives of countless global citizens, including two Alvernia students whose recent encounters in the Italian hamlet made a lasting impact. Kevin Shainline ’15 and Jennifer Toledo ’15 set off on a 10-day Franciscan pilgrimage last December, a trip underwritten by the Alvernia Assisi Fund. The pair were among 33 college students nationally to participate in the Association of Franciscan Colleges and Universities sponsored event. Stops included Assisi and the Vatican, the backdrop for countless experiences that included prayers, Eucharistic celebrations, meditations, visits to historic locations and lectures, all patterned after Francis and Clare’s attempts to “fix their gaze on God.” “The trip was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity,” Shainline said. “I will always be able to look back on it and see how it impacted my life.” Toledo, whose birthday coincidentally falls on St. Francis’ feast day, Oct. 4, nurtured a special bond she feels with the revered saint. “The pilgrimage completely changed my life; I have a better understanding of what Francis and Clare gave up for God,” Toledo said. “And when it comes to helping people, I do it without thinking twice, no matter who they are.” When they lived in the 13th century, Saints Francis and Clare served the poor and sick and stressed the importance
44 Alvernia University Magazine
Continued on page 54
Left and below: Theo Anderson (2)
Through the eyes of a saint
Published on Jun 2, 2014