By Lindsay Steele
The Catholic Messenger
Last September, four members of the Teets family joined Bishop Thomas Zinkula and 28 others on the Faith of the Irish pilgrimage, sponsored by The Catholic Messenger.
“We were blessed to spend nine days experiencing Ireland’s natural beauty, lively culture, historic sites and awe-inspiring holy places,” said Dan Teets, a member of St. Mary Parish in Iowa City. He made the pilgrimage with his wife, Janet, and two of their children, Valerie and Matthew.
“Ireland is a deeply beautiful country, and though you can come to know it without ever visiting it — I’d come to know and love it very well before our pilgrimage — there is nothing like experiencing Ireland in its truest and purest form and essence,” Matthew, 16, reflected.
The Teets family will speak at the next Faith Journeys event, “Reflections on a Pilgrimage to Ireland,” Feb. 19 at St. Mary Parish in Iowa City. The quarterly event offers Catholics in the Iowa City area an opportunity to share and hear faith testimonies. Bishop Zinkula, the pilgrimage’s spiritual director, will also share reflections. The presentation starts at 4 p.m. at the church and will be livestreamed on St. Mary’s YouTube channel. Dinner follows at 5 p.m. in the parish hall.
The rich Catholic history in Ireland, as well as some ancestral roots in the country, drew the family to the pilgrimage, Dan said. “My mother’s maiden name is Bailey, and her mother’s middle name was O’Neill. Both families came from the north of Ireland.” The Teets family spent time in that area when the pilgrimage journeyed to Down Cathedral in Downpatrick. The family viewed the graves of St. Patrick, St. Brigid and St. Columbkille, “three of the many great saints that helped build the faith of the Irish.”
Each day, pilgrims celebrated Mass in a different location. Dan took the opportunity to photograph the Fourth Station of the Cross, “Jesus Meets His Mother,” at each church. “Growing up in the Missouri Synod Lutheran tradition, I knew who Mary was, but I did not have anything resembling a devotion to St. Mary in my experience,” he said. “A recent part of my spiritual journey as an adult Catholic is being drawn more to Mary and her unique role in salvation history.” His favorite “Fourth Station” was at Holy Cross Abbey in Tipperary. “It was an abstract image of Jesus meeting his mother, and the plaque above the station said, ‘Mary was There.’ It was a simple reminder that Mary was there not only at Jesus’ birth, but at his passion and death.”
During the pilgrimage, Dan had the opportunity to fulfill a request from his “earthly mother:” kissing the Blarney Stone. “My mom insisted I had to do that if I (ever) visited Ireland.”
“The pilgrimage was filled with beauty and learning, from ancient times to present day,” Janet said. She appreciated the opportunity to visit the Father Patrick Peyton Family Rosary Center near Attymass in County Mayo.
“Father Peyton was known for the worldwide Family Rosary Campaign, proclaiming, ‘The family that prays together stays together’ and ‘A world at prayer is a world at peace,’” Janet continued. “He died in 1992 and has been declared venerable. His life gives us a beautiful 20th century example of the faith of the Irish. I hope I can apply his witness to my own faith journey.”
Valerie, 21, said she had a meaningful experience at the Marian apparition site at Knock. “After visiting Knock and learning about the apparition, it felt as though the veil between us and what is truly present at each Mass had been lifted. I was able to enter more deeply into the mystery and majesty of our Lord’s sacrifice, having that beautiful visualization in mind. I feel incredibly blessed to have visited that holy site! What I learned and experienced there, I will continue to carry with me to every Mass in which I am privileged to participate,” she said.
The trip to Ireland offered Matthew “a deeper level to something I’d always known about and loved, but had never physically been able to experience: the spirit and essence of Ireland.” He described “looking out over the wind-whipped Cliffs of Moher … rising over the Atlantic, trekking up Croagh Patrick, feeling the rain fall softly over the beautiful Blarney Gardens, and watching the mist rise over the Wicklow Mountains from that lovely glacial valley — St. Kevin’s Glendalough.” He said, “a lyric from one of the many Irish songs I’ve heard over the years came to mind: ‘What monster could look upon Erin’s blue mountains, or see the gray fog looming up in the air… Or sit, for a while, by her bright crystal fountains, Without adding a tear of pure sympathy there?’’’