In the Footsteps of St. Francis & St. Clare

A Pilgrimage to Assisi

April 29 – May 9, 2025

Assisi, Italy

Join Pilgrimage Leaders Margaret Benefiel and Chuck McCorkle to experience the awe-inspiring town of Assisi where pilgrims have sought wisdom for centuries.

Step away from the fast-paced life and immerse yourself in a timeless world of rolling hills, cobblestone streets and inspirational art.


Check back soon for application details. In the meantime, please email Michelle with any questions.

Free Assisi information call

Join pilgrimage co-leaders Margaret Benefiel and Chuck McCorkle on Zoom for a free info call to discern about the rightness of this pilgrimage for you. Dates to be determined.

Experience the culturally-rich birthplace of the thirteenth-century saints Francis and Clare, and walk in their footsteps through the beautiful landscapes of Umbria and Tuscany.

As you journey to the sacred sites where the saints sought clarity and spiritual sustenance, you may find your connection to the divine grows stronger and see your own life with renewed vision. Open yourself to the possibilities of transformation as you draw on the natural beauty of this land and the spiritual imprint left by the saints.

Following the example of St. Francis at San Damiano, we will also explore the use of art in our own contemplative practice. The pilgrimage pace will be relaxed, allowing for spacious moments of solitude and contemplative silence, as pilgrims draw from a deep well of spiritual nourishment.

Each day we will ground ourselves in prayer and reflection. We encourage pilgrims to bring a musical instrument, art supplies, a journal, or anything else that nurtures the soul. Contemplative practices will help us reach inward, so that we might be more deeply touched by the beauty and inspiration of this sacred land and its culture. Pilgrims will stay in a convent of Franciscan sisters in the historic center of Assisi.


Day One

Our journey will begin with a walk through Assisi, located in Umbria, the green heart of Italy…

Treasured as the birthplace of both St. Francis and St. Clare, Assisi instills a sense of peace and meaning in the many pilgrims who travel through its wonderfully preserved history. Flowering balconies and frescoes can be seen at nearly every turn. As we orient ourselves to the historic town, we will become immersed in the beauty of Assisi’s cobblestone lanes, immense gates, and medieval architecture. Our evening will end with a group dinner at the retreat center.

Day Two

On our second day, we will continue our exploration of the town…

as we visit sites important to the early lives of St. Clare and St. Francis. At the Cathedral of San Rufino, we will see the site of St. Clare’s childhood home and the font where St. Francis, St. Clare, and Emperor Frederick II were each baptized. We then will stroll down to the site of San Giorgio where St. Francis attended school and where he preached early sermons. We continue on to Chiesa Nuova, the site of St Francis’s birth and the adjacent family home and business. In the afternoon, we will walk to Santa Maria Maggiore where St. Francis renounced his family inheritance, stripping off his clothes and dedicating his life to God.

Day Three

On our third day we will walk past the medieval city walls…

and down to San Damiano, the church where St. Francis heard God’s call and where St. Clare established her religious community. In the evening, we will gather for an evening prayer service with the Poor Clares, the contemplative order of nuns founded by St. Clare.

Day Four

On the fourth day, we will focus on the life of St. Francis as depicted in Giotto’s fresco cycle…

in the Upper Basilica of St. Francis. We will see how Francis’s emphasis on the humanity of Christ later translated to a radical visual reinterpretation of the Gospel story by some of the masters of Late Medieval Art. We will also view relics and additional artwork in the Basilica Treasury and Museum, and Cimabue’s famous portrait of St. Francis.

Day Five

On the fifth day, we will visit Rivotorto, a stream at the foot of Mount Subasio…

where St. Francis and his followers lived in an abandoned hovel. We will then travel to the Porziuncula and the church of St. Mary of the Angels, headquarters of St. Francis and his brothers, and the place to which St. Clare ran away from her family to embrace her call to serve God. Here we will encounter frescoes by Perugino, Overbeck and have our first glimpse of a Della Robbia terra cotta relief. In the evening, we will gather for Vespers with the Poor Clares, the contemplative order of nuns founded by St. Clare. After dinner, we will gather for night prayer at the crypt of St. Francis in the majestic Basilica of St. Francis.

Day Six

A free day for exploring and following Spirit-led adventures on your own.

Day Seven

On our seventh day, we will focus on the life of St. Clare with a visit to the Basilica of St. Clare…

Home to many relics, paintings, frescoes, and the original San Damiano crucifix, the 13th-century church also contains the tomb of Saint Clare. In the evening, we will gather for an evening prayer service with the Poor Clares, the contemplative order of nuns founded by St. Clare.

Day Eight

Our eighth day will bring us to the forest gorge and isolated caves of Mount Subasio…

Here St. Francis and his followers found a quiet home in the hermitage of Carceri. Surrounded by a thicket, the hermitage provides a secluded place for prayer and meditation, and Saint Francis returned here often throughout his life. Following in the saint’s footsteps, we will take time to enjoy a day of silence and solitude, returning to the convent at our own pace.

Day Nine

On the ninth day, we will travel together to La Verna, enclosed in a forest on Mounte Penna in Tuscany…

where we will view the Chapel of the Stigmata, built upon the sacred ground where St. Francis received the stigmata during forty days of fasting. We will also visit Santa Maria degli Angeli and Basilica Maggiore to view their art and relics. The Basilica and Chapels present us with a staggering array of glazed terra cotta altarpieces by members of the Della Robbia family.

Day Ten

The tenth day will begin with a discussion about the Assisi Underground during World War II…

We will then walk to the Museo della Memoria, to the Basilica of St. Francis, and to Hotel Subasio with its historic architecture and views of the valley. Finally, we will visit the church and abbey of San Pietro.

Day Eleven

We will end our pilgrimage together with a final morning of contemplative practice, closing reflections, and midday meal, as we prepare to integrate the wisdom we have gained into our everyday lives.

“One will be struck by invigorating and illuminating thoughts and connections that heretofore may have eluded one. The beauty of the history, the sweetness of the hospitality offered by the nuns providing our comfortable, scenic accommodations and the richness of the spirituality presented… they all beckon the potential pilgrim to say yes. Yes to quiet illumination. Yes to sure refuge. And yes to joy-filled, spiritual grounding and discovery in the company of good friends.”

-Leslie Mason Alford, past pilgrim


Margaret Benefiel

Margaret, Executive Director of Shalem, holds a PhD in Spirituality from Catholic University and an MA. in Theology from Earlham School of Religion…

She is a graduate of Nurturing the Call: Spiritual Guidance Program and serves on the staff of that program as well as on the staff of Going Deeper: Clergy Spiritual Life and Leadership Program and Crossing the Threshold: Contemplative Foundations for Emerging Leaders. She created and directs the Soul of Leadership Program and is a co-director for the Heart Longings: An Invitation to the Contemplative Path program. She has authored or co-edited 7 books, including Soul Food, Crisis Leadership, The Soul of Higher Education, The Soul of Supervision, The Soul of a Leader, Soul at Work, and Hidden in Plain Sight, and has published over 50 articles and book chapters.

Chuck McCorkle

Chuck, part of our pilgrimage leadership team, holds a BFA in Fine Arts and an MSW in clinical social work…

He is currently a docent at the National Gallery of Art where he leads tours and facilitates virtual programs. He has long felt a strong spiritual connection with art and contemplative practice. Visio Divina, a practice he loves to share, employs art to help us connect to the conversations we already hold in our hearts. In the mid 1980’s, he relinquished his role as a practicing artist to follow a calling to do AIDS work. During those years there were moments when, completely depleted, he was filled with an ineffable love. The writing of Angela of Foligno helped him put those experiences into a larger context. Walking in the footsteps of Francis and Clare these many years continues to offer him lessons in simplicity, faithfulness, and prayer.


$3,200 per person, double occupancy
Single room: $300 additional and subject to availability

  • Cost includes all breakfasts and lunches and dinners (these will all be provided by the convent where we will be staying).
  • Cost includes transfer between Rome FCO airport and Assisi (if you ride in our scheduled bus/vans on the first and last day of the pilgrimage).
  • Cost does not include airfare to and from Rome.

Payment Schedule:

Due upon application: $500 non-refundable deposit
Due on January 15, 2025: First installment of $1350
Due on February 28, 2025: Second installment of $1350
Due on February 28, 2025: $300 single room supplement for pilgrims who will be staying in a single room

Cancellation Policy: If you must cancel your reservation, refunds will be made as follows: cancellations received on or before January 23, 2025: 100% of monies received minus $500 non-refundable deposit; cancellations received between January 24 and February 28, 2025: 50% of monies received minus $500 non-refundable deposit; no refunds will be made for cancellations received after February 28, 2025. Shalem reserves the right to cancel the pilgrimage for any reason, in which case you will receive a full refund of all monies paid.

Shalem does not require, but strongly encourages pilgrims to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19. We will also be following Italy’s requirements related to travel.


Pilgrimage: April 29 – May 9, 2025
Application Deadline: December 1, 2024

Check back soon for application details. In the meantime, please email Michelle at with any questions.


Michelle Geuder is the Registrar for the Assisi Pilgrimage and can be contacted at


Our mission is to nurture contemplative living and leadership.


In 2025, Shalem will be a dynamic and inclusive community, empowered by the Spirit, where seekers engage in transformation of themselves, their communities, and the world through spiritual growth, deep connection, and courageous action.