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A Pilgrimage to Italy

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Rome residents who like to shop for antiques, artwork and furniture now have the chance to get great deals while helping local youth embark on an incredible pilgrimage.

Members at St. Peter’s Episcopal Church will host a weekend market where area residents can buy a variety to treasures. And all the money raised will help the church’s youth travel to Italy next year.

George Thomason, the event’s organizer said a previous antiques market raised $24,000 to fund a similar pilgrimage to the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela in Spain.

He hopes the community will support this year’s pilgrimage by purchasing items on Sept. 16 and 17.

At the root of this year’s market is a wealth of antiques and artwork being shared with St. Peter’s by Jean Lankford.

“Jean is a well known and highly respected antiques dealer in the Atlanta and Northwest Georgia area,” Thomason said. “Her willingness to share her years of experience and her enormous store of information about antiques and vintage collectibles has made her a highly respected presence on the southern antiques scene for decades. St. Peter’s is greatly indebted to Mrs. Lankford.”

The antiques and collectibles market will take place Sept. 16 from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Sept. 17 from noon to 3:30 p.m. in Daniel Hall at St. Peter’s Church, 101 E. 4th Ave.

Aside from Lankford’s contributions to the market, St. Peters parishioners have also donated items and have helped with pricing so that when Romans show up to the market, they’ll be greeted as guests and can browse the myriad of antiques, collectibles, artwork, crystal, serving pieces, jewelry, needlepoint and furniture on sale.

Among the treasures up for sale are handwoven baskets, tea sets, paintings, crystal and pottery.

And all the money made at the market will go directly to helping six of the church’s youth members and two chaperones Italy next June.

The Rev. Nikki Mathis, an assistant rector at St. Peter’s, will accompany the youth on the trip which she says in not a vacation but a devotional pilgrimage.

“This is the culmination of two years of their youth formation program,” Mathis said. “This is the crux of their formation together. They’ve bonded and have been praying together and going through the gospels together. Now they’re ready for a deeper experience away from their families and their phones. They’ll rely on God for this new experience.”

The travelers will visit Rome and Florence, but in particular, sites associated with St. Francis of Assisi. Stops on their journey will include the Pantheon, The Vatican, the Colosseum, St. Peter’s Basilica, the Sistine Chapel, Assisi and Florence.

On day five of the 10-day pilgrimage, the group will travel along the “Highway of the Sun” and stop in Greccio to see the Greccio Monastery where in 1223 St. Francis celebrated Christmas by placing a manger and live animals before the altar which started the custom of manger scenes at Christmas.

Day seven of the journey will see the group in Isola Maggiore, where St. Francis went on retreat for 40 days.

Mathis said the journey serves to show the teens sites that are centuries old to show them physical evidence of how old Christianity is and how old worship is.

“St. Francis is one of the more familiar saints,” she said. “Many of the youth will be able to relate to him because of his love of animals. But he gave up the comforts of life which is something they may not be able to relate to and that’s what we want to show them. We’re staying in hostels, not expensive hotels and they won’t be online. Knowing their parish and their community helped send them on this journey will be an eye opener for many of them.”

Mathis is grateful to those who are organizing the antiques and collectibles market and to those community members who will purchase items. She said the money will offset travel expenses for the teens and their families.

“This is the culmination of two years of work and preparation,” she said. “This is a prayer trip. This is an intensely devotional trip. It’s not about taking a million pictures of Italy. It’s about spiritual growth.”

Aside from attending and purchasing items at the market on Sept. 16 and 17, those who would like to support the pilgrimage can send checks to St. Peter’s Episcopal Church and specify “Church Youth Pilgrimage” on the check.