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Article: Leaders reflect on special pilgrimage week in diocese

We thank Hannah Heil and the team at The Catholic Times for their coverage of the Seton Route of the National Eucharistic Pilgrimage. This article appeared on July 9, 2024.

COLUMBUS - After spending seven days in the Diocese of Columbus, perpetual pilgrims traveling with the St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Route of the National Eucharistic Pilgrimage have continued on with their journey, but their time in the diocese is likely unforgettable.

Father Roger Landry, the chaplain at Columbia University in New York, is leading the Seton Route, which is traversing the eastern part of the United States with Christ in the Blessed Sacrament. Traveling the route are two priests, a brother, seminarian and five young adults serving as perpetual pilgrims. They are joined by religious sisters of the Daughters of Mary, Mother of Healing Love.

The Seton Route arrived in the Diocese of Columbus on June 24. It was one of several dioceses the pilgrims visited along the eastern route, and perhaps, one of the most notable.

“Most places that we’ve gone, to be blunt, would have either extremely pious people organizing who love the Lord so much, and it’s really palpable, but without great organizational skills … or with fine people with extraordinary organizational skills but without that same type of devotion, until we got to Columbus,” Father Landry said during a picnic outside of Columbus St. Joseph Cathedral on Sunday, June 30.

“Columbus, we have had that sort of double gift, especially in Liz Christy and Marlon De La Torre and one of the best bishops in the country, Bishop Earl Fernandes, who have brought to our time here both love that’s contagious as well as all the details already worked out, so we’re so grateful to the Diocese of Columbus.”

The Seton Route, one of four routes traveling across the country, departed from New Haven, Connecticut in May. The pilgrimage concludes in Indianapolis on July 16 before the opening of the 10th National Eucharistic Congress.

The pilgrims’ weeklong stay in the diocese was complete with Eucharistic processions, Holy Hours and Masses at various locations throughout the diocese. Approximately 7,000 individuals participated in events with the Eucharistic Lord before the route’s departure on June 30.

“Every single parish that hosted over the last week just gave their best,” said Christy, the associate director for the Department of Evangelization & Catechesis. “Their pastors and their staff and their volunteers all came out.

“It really speaks to how amazing our diocese is and how much our pastors and our parish staff and our parishioners want to be close to the Lord and want to share that with other people, and they were just so generous.

“All those things combined – the national planning, the local planning, generosity of parishes – came together so perfectly and just made it such a beautiful, impactful week.”

Christy helped lead the way for the pilgrims as they processed around parishes and through various city streets throughout the diocese. She also located tabernacles for the repose of the Blessed Sacrament.

Similar to St. John the Evangelist beating St. Peter to the tomb as the two raced on Easter morning, Christy ran to find a tabernacle for the Lord to rest after various Eucharistic processions during the week.

“It was fun because I would try to race ahead of them to get there first and make sure the tabernacle was … ready and prepared,” she said. “It was wonderful to lead the way for Jesus a little bit. It was a really huge honor to get to make that happen for them.”

Somerset St. Joseph Church, the diocese’s oldest parish, was the Seton Route’s first stop. The pilgrims also visited Newark and processed from Newark Blessed Sacrament Church to Newark St. Francis de Sales Church.

“It was a huge crowd of people of all ages – young and old – from the elderly down to little babies being carried by their mothers or in strollers – a lot of just vibrancy in that procession,” Christy said of the pilgrims’ time in Newark.

“It was warm, and it didn’t stop anybody, and people were singing and praying the rosary and adoring the Lord and carrying Him through the street. That was a really great day.”

The third day of the pilgrims’ visit included an anniversary Mass for Father Landry, who celebrated his 25th anniversary of priestly ordination on June 26, at Pickerington St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Parish. The following day included Mass at Columbus Christ the King Church that Bishop Earl Fernandes celebrated in Spanish.

“The homilies that we got to experience from both the bishop and Father Landry were so beautiful and so Eucharistic-focused and just a good reminder of our faith and why this is all so important,” Christy said.

Saturday, June 29, the Solemnity of Ss. Peter and Paul, drew the largest crowd of the week to Westerville St. Paul the Apostle Church. Christy said approximately 1,200 individuals were present.

The day included a Holy Hour, Mass, Eucharistic procession and Benediction, or blessing, of the Blessed Sacrament. A vocations fair was also offered at the church.

Private events during the week included visits to Pickaway Correctional Institution, a state prison for men, and Mother Angeline McCrory Manor, a non-profit health care facility in Columbus sponsored by the Carmelite Sisters for the Aged and Infirm.

“To see Father Landry and the pilgrims bringing Jesus to those places was very overwhelming in a really good way,” Christy said.

A Holy Hour was held at the correctional institute, and inmates had an opportunity to receive the sacrament of reconciliation. Priests heard confessions from all who desired to bring their sins to the merciful heart of Christ.

While priests were hearing the men’s confessions, religious sisters and pilgrims present prayed the rosary and sang praise and worship songs, Christy said. After confession, there was a Mass and Eucharistic procession around the prison grounds.

“The soul of a penitent was never more revealing when I witnessed inmates from Pickaway County facility express their sincere repentance through the reception of the sacrament of reconciliation to properly prepare to worship and receive our Lord Jesus Christ,” said De La Torre, the senior director for the Department of Evangelization & Catechesis.

“That was really an impactful day, and then we were able to have some fellowship with the men as well. We all were able to have coffee and doughnuts after everything and just talk with them a little bit and just spend time with them,” Christy said.

“We were all given that beautiful gift of being part of prison ministry for a morning. I think we all walked away very changed from that, and that was really special.”

Bringing the Eucharistic Lord to Mother Angeline McCrory Manor could be considered equally impactful. The pilgrims visited the manor later that day.

A Eucharistic procession was held indoors. A Holy Hour was also offered in the building’s chapel. Christy said several came to the chapel for Adoration, and residents in wheelchairs were wheeled to the chapel.

During the Holy Hour, Father Landry held the Blessed Sacrament in front of each person. A few residents present were non-verbal, Christy said, and unable to communicate.

“For those that were unable to move their arms or talk, he would take their hand, and he would put their hand up to the monstrance, and he would tell them, ‘This is Jesus, and you can say a prayer in your heart for anything that you want to ask Jesus.’

“And, sometimes, he would pray for them, and most of them were crying,” she said. “It was incredibly powerful and beautiful to see.”

The pilgrims also prayed outside of a Planned Parenthood abortion clinic.

A closing Mass was held on June 30 at an “overflowing” St. Joseph Cathedral, Christy said. Mass was followed by a Eucharistic procession.

“Witnessing the procession of our Lord through the streets of downtown Columbus by Bishop Fernandes revealed how fortunate we are to receive Jesus Christ as Lord, Savior and King,” De La Torre said. “It is fitting that every Eucharistic procession begins and ends within the confines of the Catholic Church.”

The final Eucharistic procession of the week included rosary stations. Five ethnic communities in the diocese led a decade of the rosary in their native language. Each decade was recited in a different language and followed by a song.

“That was really special to just see the diversity of our diocese all come together in one place,” Christy said. “I think probably the most special part of Sunday was just realizing the diversity of our diocese and all the different cultures that we have.”


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