Record Number of Pre-Freshmen Return Rejuvenated from San Antonio Pilgrimage

Posted May 28, 2014 / Last updated June 2, 2014

Print Print Email Email Share Share

Chaperone Joe Chango, who teaches and coaches at Jesuit, joins a flock of young Blue Jays under an oak tree at The Alamo during the pre-freshmen pilgrimage to San Antonio.


Anyone examining the statue of St. Francis Xavier outside the Chapel of the North American Martyrs would observe that our missionary patron points west.

In the early morning hours of May 23, some 160 fledgling Blue Jays gathered beneath the guiding arm of St. Francis, seeking his benediction in preparation for the school’s annual pre-freshmen pilgrimage to San Antonio. The spiritual and fraternal touchstone of Jesuit student life has developed into a sublime compression of prayer, culture, and fun — a 72-hour adrenaline-and-sugar-fueled taste of finding God in all things.

After a couple of hours, the Odyssean fleet came to its first harbor in Grand Coteau, Louisiana, where Mass was celebrated in St. Charles Borromeo Church. Daily Mass is the binding element of the pilgrimage, connecting the students to each other in Christ and giving continuity to each day that they spend together. After Mass, faculty chaperones guide the students on a tour of the novitiate, resplendent in May verdure. Ancient oaks shaded the young pilgrims as they toured the old and new cemeteries, the Marian grotto, and the rather recently refurbished novitiate building.

Some hours later, San Antonio came into view as the buses rolled along the soft West Texas hills, bathed at that hour in the sun’s departing rays rendered gentle by towering clouds. After a fortifying meal at Rita’s on the River, the group strolled along the River Walk and up to the Alamo. Later still, having arrived at Antonian Prep and engaged in diverse athletic contests, the young Jays dropped off to sleep.

The electric buzz and glare of gym lights woke the pilgrims early the next morning. Mass was celebrated at Our Lady of Guadalupe, a Jesuit church beautifully decorated in accordance with San Antonio’s Latin American heritage. Jesuit theology teacher Jason Lalonde, S.J. and Jeremy Reuther ’01, who serves as Jesuit’s director of campus ministry, offered fine reflections concerning the significance of Our Lady of Guadalupe in the life of the Church.

The buses then embarked for Schlitterbahn, where the Blue Jays were initiated to the august delights of the Lazy River, the Master Blaster, and (mirabile dictu!) the Vortex of Fun. These several hours of watery exhilaration then yielded to the arcadian experience of Dave and Buster’s, where Tex-Mex infused eighth-graders strove for excellence and prizes.

On the third day, the group returned to downtown San Antonio for Mass at San Fernando Cathedral, the oldest continuously functioning religious community in Texas. Founded in 1731 at the center of the city, the cathedral calls to mind, on a smaller scale, certain of Europe’s sweeping churches — an interior that establishes the community’s cultural character while firmly evoking the Baroque sense of drama.

After Mass, the pilgrims returned to the Alamo, where they were treated to a lecture on that memorable mission’s history, and then proceeded to Mission San Juan, bringing the journey to its spiritual climax.

Following a barbeque lunch near Mission Concepción, the time had come for Six Flags, where roller coasters, cartoons, food, and fireworks brought the pilgrimage to its conclusion. The weary but jubilant sons of Ignatius returned to their buses and rode home through the night into the New Orleans morning.

There is in all things a unity, an omnipresence established by God’s constant creative action. Eighth-graders learn early in their Jesuit career of St. Ignatius and his vision of the Trinity which granted him the grace of seeing God in all things. That Ignatian vision is brought to bear during the events of the eighth-grade pilgrimage, where all things — praying the Mass, eating pizza, slipping down water slides, even spending the night on a bus — are unified in being directed to the greater glory of God.

Fitzpatrick_Daniel_portrait_resized for web

The above travelogue of the pre-freshmen pilgrimage was submitted by theology teacher Danny Fitzpatrick ’09, who served as a chaperone on the trip to San Antonio.