SISTER KITTY HANLEY, KAYLA AND SARAH FRANZKEN AND SISTER JOAN LESCINSKI.
SISTER KITTY HANLEY, KAYLA AND SARAH FRANZKEN AND SISTER JOAN LESCINSKI.

Each day, while traveling around Le Puy, France, a group of Sisters of St. Joseph and college students discovered glitter.

“There was the high of the day, the low and the ‘glitter,’ the surprise,” explained Sister Katherine “Kitty” Hanley, CSJ, one of the pilgrims. “The glitter would always be something like, ‘I didn’t know how moved I would be.’”

In June, the Association of Colleges of the Sisters of St. Joseph (ACSSJ) sponsored its first student pilgrimage to Le Puy, France, the village where the Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondelet were founded. Two students from each of the nine colleges ACSSJ serves were invited to accompany a group of sisters to France for a week to learn about the history of the religious order.

One pair of travelers were from The College of Saint Rose in Albany: Kayla and Sarah Franzken, identical twin sisters and juniors at CSR.

“The experience with the students, it was a really special delight,” said Sister Kitty, who helped lead the pilgrimage. “Every evening, we would gather for reflection and ‘what did today teach you?’ It was very prayerful, but loads of fun.”

The pilgrimage was led by Sister Kitty, a Saint Rose alumna and head of the Holy Ground program that trains spiritual directors in the Albany Diocese; Sister Joan Lescinski, CSJ, a spiritual director; and three other volunteer leaders.

Martha Malinski, executive director of ACSSJ, came up with the idea to bring the nine colleges under the Sisters of St. Joseph together for a pilgrimage trip. Students from each college were asked to apply, with two being chosen.

“It was such an honor [to be selected]. I was shocked,” said Kayla, a communications major at CSR. “It was definitely a privilege to go on this trip.”

Sarah, who is 12 minutes older than her twin sister, said they have always been “very close.” Raised in Poughkeepsie, the sisters were both involved in spiritual retreats at their parish and wanted to continue that during college.

In ninth grade, Kayla saw a commercial for The College of Saint Rose on television, and joked to Sarah that they would go there. Today, Kayla says that “God knew” what He was doing when He called the sisters to CSR.

Last fall, the siblings were approached by Sister Sean Peters, CSJ, director of mission experience at the college, about attending the trip. Kayla and Sarah are both resident assistants, overseeing dormitory life; they’re also involved in campus ministry and volunteer as eucharistic ministers off-campus at nearby St. Vincent de Paul parish in Albany.

Sarah, a communication sciences and communication disorders major, said that neither she nor Kayla had heard of ACSSJ when they were invited to apply for the trip. But by the end of the pilgrimage, Sarah said, Le Puy “felt like home.”

While in France, the group went on walking tours, attended Mass at Notre Dame du Puy-en-Velay and walked a portion of the Camino de Santiago, a famed pilgrimage walk known as “The Way of St. James.”

“So many things happened that were so empowering to me,” Kayla told The Evangelist. “Hiking to the Le Puy chapel...I had never seen something so beautiful. The history of the sisters [is] in the stone; they built everything.”

Students also placed flowers on the grave of Mother St. John Fontbonne, foundress of the Sisters of St. Joseph, visited the order’s motherhouse and stopped at a high school the sisters serve.

For Sarah, one of the most memorable days was going to the chapel of Saint-Michel d’Aiguilhe. Located atop an almost 300-foot-tall mountain, the chapel is reached by climbing 268 steps: “I didn’t think I was going to make it up.”

At the top, the group said a prayer inside the church. Sister Kitty said the group often stopped and read prayers at various sites throughout the trip.

Sister Kitty was touched by how much the students were invested in learning about the Sisters of St. Joseph: “You just love sharing your history and your spirit. [The trip] was beyond our hopes.”

The group had free time each day so all the students could explore the town and shops with their new friends. Kayla and Sarah said they went out for ice cream almost every night.

One student, Morgan Berhorst of Avila University in Missouri, became great friends with the sisters and is planning on visiting Albany this semester.

Sarah said she and her sister “each gained, like, five new best friends from this trip. I love getting different perspectives and hearing everyone’s unique views.”

At the end of the pilgrimage, Sister Kitty and Sister Joan gave each of the students a piece of lace in the shape of a chapel in Le Puy. Making lace is famous in the town and among the Sisters of St. Joseph.

Sarah said the gift made her feel “empowered and loved.”

Sister Kitty hopes another ¬≠ACSSJ pilgrimage will be held soon. “It was just a delightful trip,” she said.