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Family Embarked on Spiritual Journey

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Benjamin Knoop, a recent graduate from LaSalle High School, embarked on a transformative pilgrimage in March that deepened his faith and solidified his spiritual foundation. He and his family visited several sacred sites in Austria that brought profound moments of spiritual reflection.

“My family’s pilgrimage to Austria in March 2024 was amazing,” Knoop said. “The people we met, the things we learned, the experiences we had … will stay with us as we carry the light and presence of Jesus that we felt into our everyday lives. God is so good and we are so blessed.”

Franciscan University in Steubenville, where Benjamin’s brother, Bryce, attends, supports a program to encourage parents to pilgrimage with their child. Benjamin’s parents, Angie and Bryan, saw including their younger son as a valuable opportunity for him and the family as a whole.

“We thought it would be a really good experience for Benjamin to take a break from the busyness of life here, especially senior year,” Angie said, “[to] step back; see what it’s like in another country, another culture.

Angie said they expect it to be “a rare occurrence” that all four can pilgrimage together, but “our faith has always been important to us, so as parents we thought it was a great way to … show that.”

From March 17-25, they visited the towns of Gaming, Salzburg and Vienna, celebrating daily Mass in places as diverse as the Basilica of Maria Taferl (built in the 1600s) and the chapel of Mauthausen concentration camp (one of the last camps liberated by the Allies in World War II). Each day gave ample opportunity for prayer and reflection in a country where 55% of the population is Catholic.

For Benjamin, faith has always been important. He was an altar server in grade school and worships with his family at St. John in Harrison. He credits his family and LaSalle’s strong Catholic identity for his ongoing faith.

As he watches many peers fading away from church, he credits LaSalle’s retreats with why he’s “stuck to it.” “They are spaced out enough so you don’t forget about God and how important He is,” he said. “They’re just so impactful that you don’t want to get rid of God. You want Him to stay in your life.”

Benjamin also credits his older brother’s witness. Bryce initially attended Franciscan University to study for the priesthood before he discerned a different path.

Desiring to stay close to God in college, Benjamin chose Marian University, a Catholic institution in Indianapolis, IN. “It’s a Catholic-based school … they have multiple chapels on campus, [and] they make it a big deal to try to go to church every week.” He plans to major in business administration, and, as a standout offensive lineman at LaSalle, he has committed to playing for the Knights’ football team.

From a parent’s perspective, Angie said the pilgrimage experience is worth it. “[If you get the chance], I would say absolutely take it. We definitely wanted to go, but [had] reservations because it is expensive, and it is tricky working out your schedule with work or school. But we would a hundred percent do it again. I would almost say it was life changing. … I feel like what we learned and experienced there will continue to be with us.”

This article appeared in the July 2024 edition of The Catholic Telegraph Magazine. For your complimentary subscription, click here.

Sister Sophia Grace and Benjamin Knoop at the castle ruins in Durnstein.
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