Management, Center for International Programs

Fr. Mark Reamer '83, O.F.M, vice president for mission, led 29 students from his Management 290 Franciscan Leadership course on a 10-day pilgrimage to Italy. Every stop on the trip was meticulously planned in advance, except for the unpredictable event that drew the world's attention.  

International travel doesn't always follow script, and the Siena pilgrims found themselves behind schedule before they ever touched down in Italy. Because of airline drama, the Saints spent a full day at JFK International and arrived in Italy on December 29, one day later than scheduled. The next speedbump to their itinerary came two days later, when they learned Pope Benedict XVI had passed away. 

The Siena contingent had been scheduled to attend Mass at St. Peter's Tomb and they had also intended to tour St. Peter's Basilica. Both highlights of the trip were canceled. Pope Benedict's body laid in state in St. Peter's Basilica for three days before the funeral, and the unexpected circumstances spoiled what the Saints had planned. Fr. Mark was able to quickly pivot. Instead of touring St. Peter's Basilica, the Saints got in line with thousands of mourners from around the world, and paid their respects to the late pope.

"It was disappointing, but not surprising that our Mass was canceled," said Fr. Mark. "We traded off our tour of the Basilica and Mass to be part of history. Many students chose to join the crowds of pilgrims to view Pope Benedict. There were people from all over the world in line with us. One of group of sisters was praying the rosary in their native tongue - it was easy to follow along with the rhythm of their prayer."

According to the Vatican, approximately 65,000 people attended St. Peter's Basilica to view Pope Benedict and pay their respects. The lines formed outside the Basilica, and made their way down the center aisle where the pope was laid out in front of the main altar. It's not an experience the Siena students planned for, but it's once they'll never forget. 

"It was such an amazing opportunity to be able to go to St. Peter's Basilica and pay my respects to the late Pope Benedict. Hearing the somber music being sung by the choir while watching the hundreds of people lined up in the church was very moving. Taking a travel course with Siena provided me with a once in a lifetime experience that I will never forget!"

Gabe Zontini '25

"Being in Italy when Pope Benedict passed away was incomparable with anything I have ever experienced. We were all able to be a part of history by attending the Pope's viewing, and we saw the beauty of how people from all over the world gathered to both give condolences and celebrate his life." 

Erin O'Neill '23

"I left the states believing I would go on an amazing journey and pilgrimage, but I never expected to be standing in St Peter’s Basilica waiting to see and pay respects to one of the world’s leaders. Seeing hundreds of people stand in line left me in awe. It was not only a reminder of how big our world is, but also the impact one life can make. I’ll never forget this opportunity." 

Jonathan Limey '23