Nate Davis, director of veterans affairs at Xavier University, accompanied five local veterans, three of whom are Xavier students, on a spiritual journey to Assisi and Rome. They left the U.S. on Aug. 13th and returned Aug. 21st.
The pilgrimage is part of a new, veterans-only theology course developed through collaboration among Sister Rosie Miller, professor of theology, Davis and pilgrimage staff in Italy. Miller suggested the pilgrimage because she is familiar with issues such as PTSD.
Xavier is the first Jesuit institution of higher learning to develop a veterans-only theology course, and the first Jesuit institution to send a group of veterans on a pilgrimage. This allows Xavier to reinforce its mission to educate the whole person and to demonstrate its care for those who have made the ultimate sacrifices.
“Many men and women are returning home after having served in conflicted areas of the world, says Fr. John Cella, OFM, director of Franciscan Pilgrimage Programs. “Now they face the challenge of rebuilding their lives and families. We think that the journeys of St. Francis and St. Clare through their own life threatening experiences may help members of the military and their loved ones in trying to make sense out of all the good and bad that they have witnessed and felt while in the military.”
Past participant Major Greg Masiello, PhD, agrees. “That St. Francis traveled to the Middle East to broker peace for the Crusades underscores these parallels if not highlights the paradox. Many Christians and Muslims are still at odds with each other.”
Local military personnel who took the trip were Paula Alberto of Ft. Wright, KY, Marylu Gilbert of Ft. Thomas, KY, and three Xavier students from Cincinnati: Malachi Black (45215), Matthew Call (45241), and Janie Summers (45237). All were accompanied by Davis, also of Cincinnati (45227).
“St. Ignatius and St. Francis had different backgrounds – one was highly educated, the other was not – and different approaches – one was more about living, the other about thinking – but still both were soldiers and suffered through many of the same things soldiers face today when they return from battle,” says Davis. “Both found that faith can bring you through.”