By JOEY REISTROFFER
SPARTANBURG — One of the precious moments in life is when a father and son take a trip together and bond. And when that voyage leads to the Vatican to meet the Holy Father, it is much more.
Marc and Thomas Connelly took such a trip. Thomas is only 10, but Marc wanted his son to get a taste of the fullness of the faith.
So, when Regnum Christi, a lay ministry group, offered fathers and sons across the Southeast a chance to visit Rome at a reasonable price, the Connellys jumped at the opportunity.
In this year of the Holy Spirit, the pope wanted the lay ministries to join him in St. Peter’s Square for a special Pentecost Mass. When 300,000 people showed up, one reporter said the pope was “humbled.”
The massive showing from all over the world also impressed Thomas and Marc.
“I got an appreciation for the church as one big, huge family,” Marc said. “We come from different countries and have different languages, but we’re all one huge family.”
Thomas added, “It (the crowd) went all the way back to the (Tiber) River. It was packed. And there were a lot of priests. There must have been 50 priests up there. It was very strange. I couldn’t believe that they were all Catholic.”
Marc then took Thomas to see the sites of Rome, visiting the Catacombs, the Coliseum, St. Peter’s Basilica and the Forum.
Thomas, however, was more impressed with the people. They stayed at a seminary, and he got a chance to speak with young seminarians excited about being Catholic.
“I think the young seminarians impressed him,” said Lynn Connelly, Thomas’ mother. “If you are a priest, the way to seek young men (to vocations) is to enjoy what you are doing and to let that show.”
She continued, “If they are excited about serving God … if that is reflected, the vocations come easily because you have a role model to follow.”
Father Marcial Macial, founder of Regnum Christi, said the trip was a journey for the youths to help them appreciate their faith and to foster vocations.
“God needs workers for the vineyard,” he said. “Give him the first chance.”
Marc said the journey gave Thomas something to think about in his faith. “He’s still pretty young, but you leave it open.”
Added Lynn: “Some people get a vocation early, and if there is not someone there to foster that, it fades.”
For both Thomas and Marc, the voyage to the Vatican gave father and son a chance to bond and a chance to experience the fullness of what it means to be a Catholic.