When In Rome

We know for many of you lovely ladies that this isn’t your first Roman Rodeo so to speak. However, if it’s been awhile since your last trip to the Eternal City or if this is in fact your first trip to Rome, Kelly and I thought it would be fun to provide you with some helpful hints and some lighthearted reminders on how to seamlessly slip into la dolce vita or the sweet Italian life.  My heritage is known for its passion for life especially when it comes to food and wine.  That’s why many of the tips have to do with those topics.  We’re sharing these suggestions so you don’t incur the same embarrassing stares (malocchio-evil eye) or comments we received on our first trips to sunny boot. So as we say in Italia, “Andiamo” or let’s go.

o    Every Italian worth their weight in pasta begins the day with a cappuccino. Notice I said “begins the day” which means if you don’t want to look like a tourist, don’t enjoy this beverage after the noon hour.  Cappuccino is for the morning, After the lunch hour it’s espresso or go home or straight back to the hotel. Do not pass go. Do not collect 200 dollars.

o    If you don’t want to see me burst into tears or the head chef of the ristorante call the Polizia, then for crying out loud, please do not cut your pasta!  In my family this would mean a fate worse than death; almost as bad as serving a spaghetti sauce from a jar. Heaven forbid! This is also an insult to the cooks; akin to putting cheese on your fish dish. Perish the thought!  If you want a pasta that’s easier to handle and if you haven’t mastered the twirling of the pasta on your fork, then order rigatoni or another short pasta variety.   Joan Lewis and I will be happy to share what happened to a good friend of ours who actually cut her pasta at a very nice restaurant in which we were dining a few years ago.  We’re still in therapy over the frightening incident and are still banned from the restaurant.  Well not quite but almost and talking about the trauma does help ease the pain. 

o    And speaking of ristorantes, unless you plan to eat at the one or two McDonald’s in Italy, (and please don’t tell me if you do grab a Big Mac while in the food capital of the entire universe) don’t expect to have dinner before 8pm.  Most eateries don’t open for “cena” or dinner until 8pm or later.  So showing up any earlier will be a dead give-away that you’re a tourist not willing to adapt to the Italian way of life. June is super busy with lots of al fresco dining so talk to the concierge at our hotels about reservations.  

o    “Waiter check please.”  Once you are seated for “cena” (dinner) or “pronzo” (lunch but also the main meal of the day) the table is yours for as long as you like.  Meals are savored in Italy.  It’s a time for relaxing, re-connecting, and just enjoying life.  You will have to ask for the check in any decent eatery.  Savor this approach and enjoy taking your time rather than rushing through a meal as we do so often in America.

o    Remember “l’arte di non fare niente” or “the art of doing nothing”. Doing nothing is doing something very important.  I did an entire chapter on this in my book “God’s Bucket List.”  I learned this from my Mother’s father.  My grandfather, Pasquale Tomeo, who was born near Salerno, Italy taught me a great deal about being able to be still.  He could often be found in the park across the street from his Jersey City apartment home sitting on a bench feeding the pigeons and at other times just doing absolutely nothing. What he was doing however was so important for peace of mind and soul.  Here in the U.S we are always so busy; running around to the next item on our “to do” list. In Italy you will notice many people just sitting in the piazzas appearing to do “nothing”.  Take a hint from them and do the same.  Whether it’s strolling ever so slowly through Piazza Navona or Campo de Fiore, enjoy the sights, the sounds, the smells relax and really make the most of the downtime. After all we’ll be back in the USA all too soon.  

 As the saying goes “when in Rome do as the Romans do.”  Viva Italia!




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Chapter 1 of “A Holy Year in Rome”

by Joan Lewis

When I read the first chapter of Joan Lewis' book, "A Holy Year in Rome", I couldn't help but think, "This is the best explanation of a pilgrimage and the best preparation for a pilgrimage to Rome all wrapped in one!" And so, as we begin our final preparations this week to journey with our sisters in Christ on our WINE & Shrine Pilgrimage, we wanted to share with you these excellent words of wisdom. Joan, who will be with us on our pilgrimage, was kind enough to let us share her first chapter with you. So, grab a cup of coffee (or a glass of vino), sit back, relax, and enjoy the post below. (If you haven't purchased Joan's book yet, don't worry. She's bringing a few with her when she meets us in Assisi.... and rumor has it, you might even get her to sign your copy.)

A Journey of the Spirit

As the People of God, our earthly existence is an eschatological journey towards the heavenly kingdom, our ultimate destination. This divine goal, our raison d'etre, too often takes on a secondary importance, however, as we set our eyes on other, more earthly goals such as careers, homes, and material possessions.

Yet, deep inside each of us, there is an inner yearning to be free of these encumbrances, to know the truth, unfettered by human things. A yearning to know who God is, to understand His goodness, His love for us, His desire for us to be with Him in eternity. A yearning to understand how the saints reached the goal we all aspire to. A yearning to understand how truly unimportant everything else is, if it does not lead us to God.

From Moses in the desert to modern times, man has sought this truth, has sought an understanding of himself, and of God, through pilgrimages. A pilgrimage is not only a trip to a destination, it is, as St. Benedict said in his Rules, a return to the promised land, to paradise lost, to a place where man can speak to God, one on one. By visiting shrines -  be it to seek spiritual benefit, to venerate a sacred object or image, or simply to be in the presence of a holy person - pilgrims take an important step on this road to self-knowledge, and eventually to eternity.

The first disciples were entrusted by Christ with the mission of bringing the Good News "out of their Father's house" and to the four corners of the earth. Since then, pilgrimages have become an inversion of that mission as the faithful seek the route that brings them back to their Father's house.

Pilgrimages, and the role of shrines in the life of the faithful are, in fact, so important that we find five canons dedicated to this subject in the 1983 Code of Canon Law, in the section governing Sacred Places and Times.

Canon 1230 tells us: "The term shrine signifies a church or other sacred place to which the faithful make pilgrimages for a particular pious reason with the approval of the local ordinary." Canon 1231: "For a shrine to be called national, the conference of bishops must approve; for it to be called an international one, the Holy See must approve."

The last one, Canon 1234, Para 1, states: "At shrines, abundant means of salvation are to be provided the faithful: the word of God is to be carefully proclaimed: liturgical life is to be appropriately fostered, especially through the celebration of the Eucharist and Penance: and approved forms of piety are to be cultivated."


PART 2 –


Pope John Paul II, in a homily at the Basilica of Our Lady of Zapopan, Mexico, in 1979, called shrines "places of grace, ... places of conversion, penance and reconciliation with God" and "privileged places to encounter an ever more purified faith, which leads to God."

In 1992 in Rome, the Holy Father addressed participants in the First World Congress of the Pastoral Ministry of Shrines and Pilgrimages, and spoke of the aim of a pilgrimage: "It is a basic and founding experience of the believer's state 'homo viator', man en route towards the Source of all good and towards his fulfillment. By placing his entire being on this path, his body, his soul and his intelligence, man reveals himself'in search of God and a pilgrim to Eternity'."

Whatever the reason for an individual's pilgrimage, when it is undertaken with due spiritual preparation, the heart of a shrine becomes enshrined in the heart of the pilgrim. Whether the shrine houses an image of the Virgin Mary, an image, relics or the remains of a saint, it indelibly becomes part of the pilgrim, with its very special message.

The message, the story, the history, varies with each shrine. In some the story is of conversion. In others it recounts a life of heroic sacrifice for love of God. And in others, a miracle.

The first "shrine," the shrine par excellence, was Mary, the Mother of God, a "sanctuary" to Jesus for nine months before He began his earthly journey. It is thus no wonder that the overwhelming majority of shrines throughout the world are dedicated to this most perfect of God's creatures, she who succeeded to the highest degree in her encounter with God, in understanding His goodness, His love for us, and His desire that we share the Kingdom of Heaven with Him.

As we start our pilgrimage to the basilica shrines of the Eternal City, we will look at their history but more important, we will seek to discover why people come back, again and again, why they feel compelled to visit a particular place. Are they drawn to Mary? To a saint? To a message?

Often the answer may be found in the votive gifts left at a shrine for "PGR," per grazie ricevute, that is, for favors received. While you will note a number of these votive offerings at the major basilicas you will visit on your Roman pilgrimage, they are far more numerous at some of Italy's other shrine-basilicas such as St. Anthony of Padua, St. Francis of Assisi, Our Lady of the Rosary of Pompeii and the Holy House of Loreto, to name but a few. At these shrines the votive gifts often cover all available wall space and, occasionally, separate rooms are set aside for the pilgrim's "thank yous."

Only the imagination limits the form a votive offering can take. They can range from the standard silver wall plaque engraved with PGR to clothing, bicycles from champion racers, canes, crutches, embroidered items, statues, vases, jewelry, baby clothes, military uniforms, awards, diplomas, trophies, model cars, and sports teams' uniforms. And it is up to the imagination to guess the nature of the "favor received."

There is even a canon on this subject. Canon 1234, para 2: "Votive gifts of popular art and piety are to be displayed in shrines or adjacent places and kept secure."

So, pack a mental suitcase (don't forget your rosary!) as we start our pilgrimage, traveling not just as tourists, but as Christians seeking that deeper meaning of our life here on earth, undertaking a trip that is not to a place, but rather one that is a return home.

Looking forward to journeying with you!

Kelly, Teresa and Joan



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Pope Francis Must Know We're Heading to Italy!

Pope Francis laughing outside of St. Peter's Basilica during the general audience the moment he heard about WINE & Shrine. Credit: Bohumil Petrik/CNA

Pope Francis laughing outside of St. Peter's Basilica during the general audience the moment he heard about WINE & Shrine. Credit: Bohumil Petrik/CNA

The Holy Father affirms WINE: Women In the New Evangelization, BIG TIME! 

I think the article POPE FRANCIS: WANT TO CELEBRATE WELL? DRINK WINE, by Catholic News Agency, shows that Pope Francis knows a WINE pilgrimage is heading his way!

The Holy Father's words this week echo that which runs through everything WINE: Invitation, God-given Gifts of Women, JOY, Relationship with Others, Deeper Relationship with Jesus, Taking Mary's final words to heart and doing the will of God! All of these are the essence of WINE and all of these are going to be at the heart of our WINE & Shrine Pilgrimage—all of them!

Invitation: The focus is "the wedding feast in Cana"... someone invited Mary to a wedding. Scripture tells us that and it tells us that "Jesus was also invited "(John 2:1-3). A miracle began with a simple invitation. WINE is all about inviting women into relationship with other women, such that they can be supported and nurtured as they grow in relationship with Jesus.

God-given Gifts of Women: One of these key moments, Francis said, comes with Mary’s observation that newlywed couple’s resources have depleted, and that at a certain point “they have no wine.” WINE teaches women to embrace the gifts of womanhood, the gifts Pope John Paul the Great illuminated for us, the gifts of receptivity, sensitivity, generosity, and our maternal gifts.

Joy: While water is necessary to live, “wine expresses the abundance of the banquet and the joy of the feast,” Francis said. WINE is infused with JOY—always! (John 16:22)

Relationship with Others: In the expression that Jesus was “with his disciples,” it’s made clear that the ones Jesus has called to follow him are now bound together as a community and as a family, he said. WINE is all about relationships, because women are all about relationships. In fact, we are radically relational!

Deeper Relationship with Jesus: Francis said that the foundation of our faith is “an act of mercy with which Jesus has bound us to himself.” The Christian life, then, “is a response to this love, it’s the story of two lovers.” WINE & Shrine is a journey to bring us closer to the heart of our Beloved bridegroom during an extraordinary year of mercy.

Following Our Blessed Mother's Words: This mission, following Mary’s directive to “Do whatever he tells you,” means serving the Lord by listening to his Word and putting it into practice, Francis continued, adding that “it’s the simple but essential recommendation of the Mother of Jesus and it’s the program of the Christian life.” Not to sound like my earthly mother, but if I've said it once, I've said it a thousand times, WINE is about following our Heavenly Mother's final words to us in Sacred Scripture and doing the will of God... It's just a bit easier to do that when you have your sisters in Christ supporting you!

Bottom line: Pope Francis and WINE are a very good pairing!

I want to encourage you, as we pack our bags and prepare our hearts in this final week before flying to the Eternal City, to read John 2: 1-12 each day and to meditate on that Scripture. Ask the Holy Spirit to open the eyes of your heart so that on this journey you can see anew the invitation into relationships that God has for you.

Looking forward to journeying with you!

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Praying for Our Pilgrimage

Here is a beautiful prayer to help us prepare for our journey. We invite you to pray this prayer with us daily as we ready our hearts and minds to enter into a new relationship with each Person of the Most Holy Trinity—Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

Chiesa di Santa Maria Maddalena, Roma

Chiesa di Santa Maria Maddalena, Roma


God our Father,

Be with us on our pilgrim journey of faith.

Give us the grace and courage

to step forward in faith and hope on the road ahead.


Lord Jesus,

Open our eyes to see your face in all those we encounter.

Open our ears to hear your voice in those who are often ignored.

Open our hearts that we might be faithful disciples of mercy and truth.


Holy Spirit, Transform us.

Empower us to give of ourselves to the poor;

to welcome the lost; to forgive those who hurt us; to comfort those who suffer

and are marginalized.


Bless those who travel on mission

from the United States of America

to Italy, on this WINE & Shrine pilgrimage

to join the universal Church in celebrating the Jubilee Year of Mercy.


Bless, too, those who celebrate stateside, united in faith and joy.

Like the disciples who journeyed up the mountain to witness the Transfiguration,

may this experience be an encounter that strengthens us for our work in the world.


Through the intercession of Mary, the Immaculate Conception, patroness of our nation, may we be worthy witnesses of our faith, humble representatives of our country, and inspired missionaries bringing peace, hope, and mercy into our communities.




St. Clare, pray for us.

St. Scholastica, pray for us.

St. Catherine of Siena, pray for us.

St. Rita of Casia, pray for us.

St. Theresa Fasce, pray for us.

St. Cecelia, pray for us.

St. Agnes, pray for us.

St. Priscilla, pray for us.

St. Helena, pray for us.

Our Lady, Star of the New Evangelization, pray for us.


(Adapted from the USCCB World Youth Day Official Prayer for Pilgrims, © 2015)









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Blessings in Disguise

As we journey together on our pilgrimage in the footsteps of some of Italy's most beloved saints, we are going to see blessings all around us! But as this is a pilgrimage, it is important to prepare our hearts to be open to all God's blessings—those that we see clearly and those that may be disguised.

In the June 2016 edition of "The Word Among Us," Teresa Tomeo shares how the saints have taught her how to view suffering. This is a beautifully written and powerful post that will help us prepare our hearts for the blessings God has in store for us on our pilgrimage in Rome as well as on our pilgrimage here on earth.

Blessings in Disguise:
The saints have taught me how to view suffering.


“All sunshine makes a desert.” It was an old Arab proverb, according to the instructor of a Bible study I attended shortly after returning to the Catholic Church more than twenty years ago. I remember being struck by her words as she proceeded to discuss the topic of suffering. I could definitely identify with the proverb’s meaning.

We don’t really learn or grow if we don’t experience some sort of discomfort. And yet, when we are in the midst of the pruning, the stretching, and the dying to self, most of us—and I put myself on the top of the list—whine and complain, asking God to relieve us of the very thing that he just might use to perform a miracle in our lives. Those not-so-fun periods are made so much more worthwhile when we look to the saints for examples and for a helping hand. (Continue reading on The Word Among Us)

When I read Teresa's post on blessings in disguise, I couldn't help but hear one of my favorite songs playing in my mind. The song not only fits well with Teresa's article, but it is a good way to prepare your heart to be open to all that God has to offer you. I encourage you to find a quiet place and to listen to this song. It truly is a beautiful. Simply click on the video below.

Blessings by Laura Story

Blessings by Laura Story

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My Favorite Italy Related Films

From Your Pilgrimage and 100% Italian American Co-Host-Teresa Tomeo

Kelly provided some great reads in preparation for our upcoming pilgrimage. Now how about some great views or movies to watch related to Italy.  While there are some great religious films, there are also some wonderfully delightful romance films that are among my favorites that will be sure to put you in an Italian frame of mind. We have just about two weeks before we take off for our Italian adventure. So grab the vino along with some popcorn sprinkled with grated parmesan and enjoy the views.  Viva Italia!

·  Francis of Assisi:  Starring then Delores now Mother Delores Hart. According to Mother Delores her experience in portraying St. Claire changed her forever and impacted her decision to go into the religious life.

·  Roman Holiday:  A classic and my all- time favorite film starring Gregory Peck and Audrey Hepburn. Rome will never be the same after seeing this film.

·  Letters to Juliet:  Since we are Tuscany bound for part of our pilgrimage this film will really get you in the mood to see enjoy the rolling hills of this stunning Italian region. It’s a darling movie and a great chick flick.

·  Only You:  Marissa Tomei and Robert Downey Jr.  light up the screen in this love story that takes us from the romantic streets of Rome’s Trastevere region to the beautiful Amalfi Coast. The real star however is the scenery. 

Looking forward to journeying with you,



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Oh, the Weather Outside is ... Fabulous!

Annika resting in the Roman Forum

The weather is fantastic in Italy in June! I'm not just pulling your leg, I know this for a fact. My last three visits to Rome have all been in the month of June. I didn't plan it that way, but apparently the Holy Spirit felt it necessary for me to speak with confidence when I tell you that Rome is lovely in June!

The average temperature starts off at around 68° and gradually climbs up to 74°-77° as the month progresses. Teresa was just there last week, and says, "Pack for summer!"

The best way to do that is to pack clothes that are light, breathable, and can be layered—clothes that are casual, but respectable. Remember, we will be visiting a lot of churches and you will want to dress respectfully. You are not permitted to enter most churches in Europe if you are wearing shorts above the knees or a sleeveless shirt. For me this is my time to wear linen and cotton dresses with a light sweater or blouse tied at my waist. Though warm weather may be predicted, you will want to pack a jacket. And be SURE to bring comfortable walking shoes or sneakers!

There are 13 hours of sunshine each day and with only 1.3 inches of rainfall spread across eight days, it’s unlikely you’ll experience more than a shower during our pilgrimage. But just in case, pack a raincoat and an umbrella. The umbrella can do double duty, shielding you from the rain or the sun. Speaking of that, don't forget to pack sunscreen, sunglasses, and a hat.

If you need some guidance in what to pack, check out the Suggested Travel Checklist provided by Corporate Travel!

Looking forward to journeying with you! 

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Good Reads for a Great Pilgrimage

The beauty of the WINE & Shrine Pilgrimage is that it is uniquely built on relationships—our relationship with one another, our relationship with the greater Catholic Church, and our relationship with our sisters in heaven. Why are we focusing on these relationships? Because all of them draw us deeper into the most perfect of all relationships—the relationship between God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit—the relationship of the Most Holy Trinity.

As you prepare to enter into all these relationships, whether you are packing your bags for the journey or setting "Journey With Us" as a favorite page, there are four books you'll FOR SURE want to have on hand. One is the Bible, and the other three are books written by our hostesses. (And, no, they didn't plan that their works would fit perfectly with this pilgrimage when they each sat down to write their book, but it appears the Holy Spirit had a plan!)

First, the Bible speaks directly to our relationship with God. It is God communicating directly with us. (So be SURE to pack your bible!) The other three books (by our hostesses) speak to each of the three aspects of relationship that are the focus of this WINE & Shrine Women's Pilgrimage.

Created to Relate, by Kelly Wahlquist, focuses on building relationships with our sisters in Christ.

A Holy Year in Rome, by Joan Lewis, focuses on growing in relationship with our Catholic Church.

Girlfriends and Other Saints, by Teresa Tomeo, focuses on living in relationship with our sister the saints.

All three books can be purchased at St. George's Books & Gifts. If you buy all three together, you get a great deal... and St. George's is a wonderful promoter of and tither to WINE. So, if you are looking to buy any of these books, look to them.

If you are traveling with us, you'll also want to pack a June Magnificat. (This can also be purchased through St. George's.)

Looking forward to journeying with you!

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Sharing Our Journey

Last year I was blessed to spend a week in Rome with "the middle child" and it was awesome! After our time in Rome (where we had a fabulous dinner with Joan Lewis), we met up with my oldest daughter who was traveling Europe; she was on a mission to visit 15 countries and 22 cities in 60 days—and she succeeded. You can imagine that back home dad, brother, grandparents, family and friends were eager to follow her travels (and be assured of her safety.)

Luckily, modern technology kept us all connected via Instagram, FaceBook, Snapchat, Twitter, etc... (Yes, I was with teenagers so Snap stories were a common occurrence!) If you don't know what a Snap story is, don't worry, because we are going to keep you connected to your family right here— on WINEpilgrimages.com.

Before you leave, tell you family and friends to visit WINEpilgrimages.com and to set it as one of their "favorites". When they go to the site, they will see a blue button that says "Journey With Us." They can simply click on that button and they will be on our Pilgrimage blog, the page you are on right now. From here they will be able to see pictures of our travels and get daily updates on our journey—they will be able to journey with us, virtually! They will also be able to leave a comment below. We'll read off these comments on the bus, just in case some of you are traveling without a laptop.

Looking forward to journeying with you.... and will see you here in the mean time.



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May 26: "Pilgrimage is a symbol of life." Pope Francis

On December 8th, the Holy Door of St Peter’s Basilica was opened in a historical ritual, a ritual which also began celebrations that will last a year. This is a celebration that we will enter into fully next month!

Why such a monumental occasion? Pope Francis explained to the faithful, “I have decided to call an extraordinary Jubilee that is to have the mercy of God at its center. It shall be a Holy Year of Mercy. We want to live this Year in the light of the Lord’s words: “Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful" (Lk 6:36). 

“Pilgrimage is a symbol of life,” said Pope Francis. “It makes us think of life as walking, as a path. If a person does not walk, but instead stays still, this is not useful; it accomplishes nothing. Think of water: when water is not in the river, it does not course, but instead it remains still and stagnates. A soul that does not walk in life doing good, doing many things that one must do for society, to assist others, or who does not walk through life seeking God and inspiration from the Holy Spirit, is a soul that finishes in mediocrity and in spiritual poverty. Please: do not stand still in life!

Today, let us ask the Holy Spirit to put a spark in our step this June as we walk in relationship with our sisters on earth, in the footsteps of our sisters the saints, seeking to grow ever closer to that most perfect relationship for which we were created—the Most Holy Trinity.

Looking forward to journeying with you!

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