This is how we can describe what took place last June in Malta when a group of lay people, members of our Paulist family from different countries, came together to our country to deepen their knowledge and experience the charism passed on to us by our founder Joseph De Piro.
The idea was born around four years ago when a group of lay Paulists from the Philippines mused on the idea of visiting Malta to further unearth the roots of the spirituality they had been receiving. The idea had to be shelved because of the pandemic. But when the restrictions started to be lifted, we, consecrated MSSP members, felt that we should work towards bringing this idea to fruition. Moreover, we thought of inviting lay Paulists from other countries and who wished to be part of this pilgrimage. At our invitation, people from Australia, Peru and Pakistan started showing interest. So we immediately set ourselves to work.
As the idea started to take shape, we confirmed the participation of seven lay Paulists from the Philippines, four from Peru and another three from Australia. We missed welcoming Paulists from Pakistan who could not make the journey because of travel logistics. Together with these 14 participants, we felt that the eight professed members-in-formation at our International House of Formation in Manila should also be part of this experience. Most of them are Filipinos and Vietnamese, and they have been hearing about our founder and the foundation of our Society for several years, but they hadn’t yet experienced the setting and the ethos in which all of this was born.
The ten-day programme took the form of a pilgrimage. We visited the places pertaining to the life of Joseph De Piro, the birth of our Society, and our present ministry in Malta. We visited the place where De Piro was born, where he had his upbringing and formation, and where he ministered. These visits were adorned with relevant reflections and moments of prayer. It was equally imperative to visit places connected with the Apostle St Paul, and likewise pray and reflect on this great icon of Christianity, of whom our founder instructed us, “Let’s give to others what St Paul gave to us.”
Something that really made this experience so significant to all participants was the welcome received in the places they visited. MSSP members of the different communities in Malta, not only welcomed the participants, but also toured them around, as they shared their enthusiasm about their respective ministries. These communities were also responsible for hosting the participants, and for catering to all their needs.
A warm welcome was also given by the Maltese lay Paulist, who joined this pilgrimage according to their availability. In this manner, bonds of friendship were initiated among the participants, in such a way that the pilgrims could feel that they belong to a larger family which goes beyond their country of origin.
During these 10 days, we also visited places of historical and spiritual significance in the Maltese Islands and which included Valletta and the Grand Harbour, Mdina, the Cittadella in Gozo, and the Basilica of the national shrine of the Blessed Virgin of Ta’ Pinu.
However, we were not always on the go! There were moments when we took some time to share about the missionary spirituality of our founder, and that of St Paul. We also gave a brief overview of the history of our Society. We discussed topics such as evangelization in today’s world, as well as the role of the lay in today’s Church. These moments took place at the Motherhouse, St Agatha’s, and at Dar Stella Maris, in Gozo, the two places which served as a homebase for our experience.
At the end of this pilgrimage, our brothers and sisters felt blessed and grateful for all that they had shared and received. Even we, the organizers of this experience, felt that the Lord had blessed us in many ways. Our prayer, now, is that all that had been sown during this pilgrimage will continue to bear fruit.