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A pilgrimage for the Jubilee of Mercy

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Photos courtesy of Price and Jeanne Hatcher After celebrating Mass in St. Peter's Square at the end of the Conference for Deacons during their Jubilee of Mercy pilgrimage, Pope Francis pauses to shake hands with Deacon Price Hatcher. Hatcher serves as a

Price and Jeanne Hatcher of Cedaredge joined thousands of Catholic Church deacons and their spouses for the Jubilee of Mercy pilgrimage held in Assisi and Rome, Italy. The Jubilee Year of Mercy was proclaimed by Pope Francis and the conference and pilgrimage for deacons took place during May 23 through May 31, 2016.

In ancient times the Hebrews declared a jubilee year, a holy year, every 50 years during which time equality was supposed to be restored among all the people. (See Bible, Leviticus 25.)

Since 1475 the Catholic Church has proclaimed a Jubilee year to be celebrated every 25 years.

When an extraordinary Jubilee year, such as the Jubilee of Mercy, is proclaimed it is for some particularly important circumstance. In proclaiming the Jubilee of Mercy, Pope Francis said, "This is the time of mercy. It is important that the lay faithful live mercy and bring it into a wide spectrum of social situations. Take action!"

Price Hatcher said the pope called for the Jubilee because he recognized the need for people to reconnect with their Savior.

Price is a deacon in the Catholic Church. This was the first meeting of deacons since the order of deacons was reinstituted in the Catholic Church 50 years ago. Deacons were gratified that this first meeting occurred during the Jubilee Year of Mercy.

It was also the first time a worldwide meeting of deacons was held in Rome.

The Hatchers left Cedaredge on May 21 and spent two days in New York City sightseeing with two other deacon couples.

Price said, "After flying overnight, we landed at the Rome airport early in the morning and were met by our tour group and bus. We traveled through Italian countryside to Orvieto and the Cathedral of Orvieto, which served as a Papal residence through the Middle Ages.

"We traveled on to Assisi and checked into our hotel for dinner and a night of rest."

As with many other people, St. Francis of Assisi is a favorite of Jeanne Hatcher. "We visited the St. Francis of Assisi Hermitage. We walked to the Papal Basilica of St. Francis, the mother church of the Franciscan Order, and where St. Francis is buried. At the Basilica of St. Clare, we saw the famous crucifix from which St. Francis heard Jesus speak to him.''

The group returned to Rome.

The Jubilee of Mercy Conference for the deacons and spouses was held on Friday evening, starting at 5:00 p.m., and all day on Saturday.

During the day Friday the deacons and spouses were visiting famous places in Rome such as the Forum and the Colosseum, once the heart of ancient Rome and a place of martyrdom for the early Christians.

Regarding the conference, Price said, "There were thousands of deacons attending, coming from all over the world, and they and their spouses were divided into linguistic groups. Seminars were conducted in English, Spanish, Italian, Portuguese, German and French.

"The keynote address was on the subject, 'Deacon - Icon of Mercy of the New Evangelization', and additional discussions addressed the Deacon as Icon of Mercy 'In the Family', 'In the Parish', and 'In the Workplace.'"

Price continued, "The conference ended on Sunday with Holy Mass celebrated in St. Peter's Square by Pope Francis.

"All 4,000 deacons gathered in the building where the pope gives audiences. Each of us was given a deacon stole with 'Merciful like the Father' embroidered in Italian.

"We lined up in two sets of four across and marched to St. Peter's Square. I wound up on the front row, near the altar.

"After Mass Pope Francis came down to shake hands with special guests and then he shook hands with those of us deacons on the front row."

The Jubilee of Mercy included a pilgrimage for deacons and their spouses to six historic churches and the Catacombs of Saint Sebastian.

Some of the deacons served at Mass and gave homilies (sermons) at different churches. Price gave a homily at the Basilica of Saint Mary Major, the largest Marian church in Rome.

"It was a very inspiring experience," Price said, "being at the Vatican and in the Sistine Chapel and in the presence of Pope Francis.

"We were in some exciting places, saw important burial sites, and the catacombs where early Christians were hiding out because they were not accepted, and they worshiped there. St. Peter's and St. Paul's remains were once hidden there."

Jeanne said, "It deepened my faith to see places I've read about, places that are the foundation of any Christian faith, places where early churches existed and thrived.

"It was good to be there and to stand in places that became real."

Jeanne and Price extended their trip an additional five days and vacationed along the Amalfi Coast of Italy.

"We visited Castel Gandolfo, the pope's summer residence, although Pope Francis remains in Rome. It's a 40-acre farm where crops are grown to feed the Vatican staff. There are beautiful gardens and livestock. Cheese, milk, yogurt, wine and olive oil are produced here for the Vatican staff. They have their own school for employees' children," Jeanne said.

"We stayed in Sorrento and sipped coffee and limoncello liquor, and ate chocolate gelato -- Italian ice cream -- about every day."

Price said, "The Amalfi Coast is rugged. The mountains come right up to the coast. Roads are very narrow, and very old. If two buses try to pass each other, the drivers have to figure out which one is going to move, and where, so they can pass. If a guy was walking down the road and the two buses were side by side, there wouldn't be room for him to walk between them.

"We visited Pompeii and saw the ruins of a civilization covered by ash from the eruption of Mount Vesuvius in 79 A.D. We saw mummified people, a mummified dog, remains of houses with the pictures still on the walls. It's like a museum; you see what was left," Jeanne said.

Price noted, "The Colosseum has been partially rebuilt. There is a wooden floor under the stadium where the people and animals were kept. That was a complex elevator system in old Rome."

Jeanne added, "Of course we tossed a coin into the famous Trevi Fountain. The legend says that if you toss a coin in Trevi you will return one day to Rome to toss another coin in Trevi."

Price and Jeanne Hatcher have lived in Cedaredge for four years, retiring from jobs they held for years in Denver. They bought the property in the late 1990s and built their house over the years as they visited their property. They moved in January 13, 2013.

Price is business manager for St. Michael Catholic Church in Delta and serves as deacon for St. Michael and St. Phillip Catholic Church in Cedaredge.

Jeanne, a member of St. Michael parish, is employed as the secretary and treasurer for Eckert Presbyterian Church.

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