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Black Catholics to lead 'Incorruptibles of Italy' pilgrimage

The trip will stop in Vicenza, Assisi, and Rome; include an opportunity for a Jubilee 2025 indulgence; and visit the shrine of St. Josephine Bakhita.

(Fr Josh Johnson/Sr Josephine Garrett/Instagram)

Black Catholic authors Fr Josh Johnson and Sr Josephine Garrett will lead a pilgrimage to Italy in 2025, visiting sites related to incorruptible saints over the course of a week, including Sts. Francis of Assisi and St. Josephine Bakhita—the only Black Catholic canonized in the modern era.

The “Incorruptibles of Italy Pilgrimage Retreat” will take place Feb. 10-18, making stops in various cities of importance to the history of Catholic religious orders, young people, and women in the Church.

“Highlights include nights in Assisi and Rome, visits to the tombs of numerous incorruptible saints, and a stop in the beautiful hillside village of Orvieto,” reads a description of the trip. “The Jubilee Year is an amazing time to visit Italy with all its history, culture and magnificent culinary experiences!”

The trip coincides with the Jubilee of 2025, a canonical event first announced by Pope John Paul II in 2001. The Vatican announced on May 13 that from Christmas Eve 2024 through Dec. 14, 2025, Catholics will be able to obtain plenary indulgences by, among other options, visiting one of several designated holy sites around the world.

According to a tentative schedule available online, pilgrims with Johnson and Garrett will visit at least one such site, the Basilica of Saint Mary of the Angels in Assisi, on Wednesday, Feb. 12. The 345-year-old church contains the portiuncula church where St. Francis founded the Franciscan Order.

The prior day, pilgrims will pray at the Church of the Holy Family in Schio, Italy, the location of the major shrine dedicated to St. Bakhita, who was canonized in 2000. She was a nun in the Canossian Order who was kidnapped from Sudan as a child and enslaved in Italy for 12 years. She gained her freedom in court after finding refuge with the sisters, who led her to the Catholic faith.

Near the end of the pilgrimage retreat, participants will visit the motherhouse of Sr Garrett’s order, the Sisters of the Holy Family of Nazareth. On the same day, they will visit the incorrupt relics of Blessed Anna Maria Taigi, a vowed Secular Trinitarian known for her miraculous visions of Jesus and the Blessed Virgin.

Garrett, a speaker and writer covering issues related to mental health, spirituality, and youth/young adult ministry, has been a member of the CSFN sisters since 2015. Since entering religious life, she has served in her congregation’s vocations ministry and is currently a Catholic school counselor. 

Johnson, also a popular social media presence, is director of vocations for the Diocese of Baton Rouge and pastor of Sacred Heart of Jesus Catholic Church. He has previously collaborated with Garrett on the “Chosen Retreat,” a summer event promoting diversity in vocations.

On Monday, she and Johnson shared their excitement about the trip to their more than 60,000 followers on social media.

“We’ve got 3 spots left for this small, retreat-like pilgrimage,” she and Johnson wrote Tuesday on Instagram.

“We won’t be running from place to place like tourists. We are going to abide with the Lord in prayer, adoration, Mass and also by reflecting on the lives of saints who lived lives rooted in God’s love; especially the incorrupt saints whose remains we will venerate—Saints Josephine Bakhita, Carlo Acutis, Blessed Anna Maria Taigi and more.”

The pilgrimage retreat cost is $4,749 for double occupancy, with a single supplement option available at additional cost. Full airfare for the trip is not included, though the price includes group departure from New Orleans. (A discount is available for the land-only option.) A $500 deposit is required upon registration, with a second deposit of $1,250 due by Friday, Sept. 13. Final payment is due by Tuesday, Nov. 12.

Though space is limited, Johnson and Garrett have noted that a waitlist will be available if the retreat sells out. Registration options and a tour brochure can be found on the Corporate Travel website.

Nate Tinner-Williams is co-founder and editor of Black Catholic Messenger.

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