Do you want to go on a pilgrimage with me? Well, then, tune in this weekend when, instead of a guest in the interview segment, I will take you on a journey to the Shrine of Our Lady of the Rosary in Pompeii, Italy – the new Pompeii. It has a great story and one of the big feast days at the shrine is precisely this weekend, the first Sunday in October when pilgrims come for what is known as The Supplication. Stay tuned to find out what that is! And remember, this is the month of the Rosary!

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I began to tell you yesterday about the beautiful celebration in St. Peter’s basilica that marked the ordination of 43 new deacons from the North American College. I was able to post a number of photos on Facebook and have posted two of the three videos I did. I am working on posting the third video that is a must-see: the procession at the end of Mass accompanied by a magnificent organ solo. During the solo performance, I offer images of the papal altar, the Altar of the Chair where the ordinations took place and other pieces of stunning artwork. I also posted the particulars of the Rite of Ordination on Facebook to explain the photos I took.

I was lucky yesterday morning to have an excellent seat in St. Peter’s, courtesy of a young seminarian from New Jersey, and was thus able to take a ton of photos and several videos with my new Samsung Galaxy 2 camera. My great joy, however, was being seated next to four Americans who knew me immediately from EWTN – “Why, you’re Joan’s Rome!” (This happened throughout the day – in the basilica, on the way to NAC for the reception and during the reception. It was like a mini Joan’s Rome reunion) They were also linked to an organization I first learned about when I was fairly little!

The four of us became fast friends, chatting as we waited for the start of Mass. I learned the two men were from Serra International (members are called Serrans) and visiting Rome with about a dozen other members. We spoke a bit before Mass and then later at the reception for the new deacons at the North American College. The gentlemen I met from Serra included Steven Zabicki, Jr. the president of Serra International Foundation (NOT to confuse in any way with the Sierra club!!), Chuck Bauermann and Jim Fennel.

It was a joy to talk to them as just the name Serra brought back wonderful memories of my youth and the many years my Dad was active in the Serra Club, eventually becoming an office in an Illinois Chapter. When I asked him what Serra Club was when he first became a member, Dad said, “It is a Catholic men’s organization designed to foster vocations to the priesthood.” For years, I told anyone who wanted to know and who would listen exactly what Serra Club was, using that explanation!

I well remember, as if it had happened fairly recently, attending Father-Daughter luncheons and was always especially proud to be in attendance when my Dad was the speaker! He had a great sense of humor, a way with words, and an even greater way with people. Dad always made everyone feel at ease, asking questions, just talking and, importantly, listening, whether you were 6 or 60.

I also attended a number of Serra International annual meetings over the years, and I distinctly remember thinking then – as I do now – that I’d never met a finer group of people. The 2015 meeting will be in July in Australia – what fun it would be to attend and to meet more fine people who promote vocations to the priesthood!

I also remember my Dad telling me one day, years after I had graduated from college, that I had done more to help Serra than he ever had. I asked what he meant, and he said, “Well, two guys you dated in high school and college entered the seminary!” (I’m not sure what to make of this, all these years later)


Aleteia today published the results of a survey done over the period of a year regarding the upcoming two-week long Synod of Bishops on the family that starts Sunday morning with a papal Mass. The theme of this synod, chosen by Pope Francis, is “The Pastoral Challenges to the Family in the Context of Evangelization.”

Aleteia describes itself as a “worldwide Catholic network sharing faith resources for those seeking Truth.”, a major evangelization initiative for the digital world, was launched in the fall of 2011 in Rome. Aleteia welcomes the contributions of people seeking Truth, including comments, critiques, suggestions, etc.

A press release published today by Aleteia about the imminent synod starts by noting that, “communion for the divorced and remarried, birth control, abortion, marriage, cohabitation before marriage, and pedophilia …these are the topics that generate the greatest interest on the Internet when we talk about the impending Synod of Bishops on the Family.”

The press release adds that, “these themes emerged from an analysis of comments and conversations on the Internet (culled from websites, social networks, forums, and blogs), that was published by on the occasion of the Third Extraordinary General Assembly of the Synod, which will be held October 5 to 19, 2014 at the Vatican. Its subject: “The Pastoral Challenges of the Family in the Context of Evangelization.”

Here are the results:

Taking into account 38,333 comments, news postings, and conversations on the internet (in English), between September 1, 2013 and September 1, 2014, the study shows that there is great interest in this event convened by Pope Francis, which will be followed by an ordinary synod in 2015.
· 34% of Internet mentions were about the delicate issue of divorced and remarried Catholics, and their access to Holy Communion.
· 30% of conversations and news concerned the concept of marriage from the Christian point of view.
· 15% mentioned the ethical debate on birth control and the position of the Catholic Church.
· 9% talked about the abortion debate and the position of the Catholic Church.
· 8% of the discussions were focused on unions between persons of the same sex, and the adoption of children.
· 3% of discussions dealt with issues related to cohabitation before marriage.
· Finally, one percent of comments noted that that the pedophilia scandals have damaged the credibility of the moral teachings of the Church.

The English-speaking countries where the Synod has generated the most reaction are the United States and Canada, with 53% of all mentions, followed by Europe with 21% (especially from the UK), while 10% of the discussions came from Asia and Oceania.

Internet coverage of the synod came primarily from news sites at 32%, followed by discussion forums with 30%, social networks with 25%, and blogs (13%).

The study was not limited to the synod, but also encompassed broader ethical issues related to the family.
Analyzing more than a million (1,162,143) Internet postings in the last year, the topics covered broke down as follows: 21% were about abortion, 18% were on religious marriage, 13% on contraception, 13% on pedophilia, 8% on same-sex unions, 8% on the question of the divorced and remarried, 7% of subjects on feminism, and 12% were on other topics.

The study was conducted by digital analysis for, the global Catholic network of information on matters of faith, life and society.

You can download the study here: