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Article: ‘He’s truly there:’ Hundreds of pilgrims process with Eucharist through Baltimore streets

George P. Matysek Jr.

Catholic Review (Original Article HERE)

June 7, 2024

As young girls tossed red, orange, gold and white flower petals before a procession of the Blessed Sacrament outside the National Shrine of St. Alphonsus Liguori in Baltimore June 7, a woman holding a cane stood in front of a liquor store watching with tears in her eyes.

Bells pealed loudly from the church tower and the fragrance of incense filled the air. Two seminarians holding flickering candles flanked Baltimore Auxiliary Bishop Bruce A. Lewandowski, C.Ss.R., as the bishop raised a golden monstrance containing the Blessed Sacrament and offered a blessing to approximately 500 people kneeling on the streets and sidewalks surrounding the historic church.

“I think this is just wonderful,” said Carolyn Armstrong, clutching her cane and struggling to hold back tears.

A Methodist who lives in the sometimes-troubled neighborhood surrounding St. Alphonsus, Armstrong said she didn’t know what the solemn morning event was until a woman gave her a card noting that the procession was part of the National Eucharistic Pilgrimage.

“I think it’s beautiful and it restores my faith and it makes me cry because I love Christ so much,” said Armstrong, who noted that she had a similar reaction when she was a child attending a Bible summer camp. A counselor told her then that tears are a sign that “somebody really wants to let Christ into her heart.”

A woman holding an infant prays outside the National Shrine of St. Alphonsus Liguori as part of the National Eucharistic Pilgrimage June 7, 2024, in Baltimore. (Kevin J. Parks/CR Staff)

The stop at St. Alphonsus was part of a daylong series of prayerful visits to Baltimore-area churches and Catholic institutions on the final day of the national pilgrimage’s journey through the Archdiocese of Baltimore as part of the pilgrimage’s “eastern route.”

The route, named for St. Elizabeth Ann Seton, is one of four coming from all parts of the country to join up July 17 at the National Eucharistic Congress in Indianapolis.

In the Baltimore archdiocese, events were held in Westminster, Emmitsburg and Baltimore June 5-7.

In his homily at a June 7 morning Mass at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary in Baltimore, Bishop Lewandowski emphasized beauty in simplicity and the simple beauty of the Blessed Sacrament.

He noted that the Baltimore Basilica is at the literal geographic center of the entire city of Baltimore. Put another way, he said, the center of the city is Christ’s presence in his Body and Blood – “the eucharistic heart of Jesus.”

Pilgrims process past St. Michael the Archangel Ukrainian Catholic Church during the National Eucharistic Pilgrimage June 7, 2024, in Baltimore. (Kevin J. Parks/CR Staff)

“(Jesus) desires more than anything that you throw yourself into his loving arms,” Bishop Lewandowski said.

The bishop said Christ’s beauty is “magnified and intensified by his presence in the tabernacle and on the altar.” Jesus wants that same beauty for all people – to abide in them and fill them with his presence, he said.

“Even as beautiful as this place is, even as beautiful as any church or altar or tabernacle or sacred vessel, you were created to hold God and to be the vessel that carries him into the world,” Bishop Lewandowski said, “so that the world might know his loving presence, his grace, his goodness, his mercy and his salvation.”

In addition to stops at the Baltimore Basilica and St. Alphonsus, June 7 pilgrims walked to St. Jude Shrine and St. Mary’s Spiritual Center and Historic Site in Baltimore, chanting and praying eucharistic prayers at each location.

In the afternoon that same day, pilgrims journeyed from Our Daily Bread to St. Frances Academy, St. Francis Xavier, the Missionaries of Charity convent at St. Wenceslaus, the Johns Hopkins Hospital rotunda, St. Patrick and St. Michael the Archangel Ukrainian Catholic Church.

Some passersby stopped to watch or pulled out their phones to capture video of the procession. Others crossed themselves, genuflected or knelt as the Blessed Sacrament processed through the streets beneath a ceremonial embroidered canopy.  

Maria Marciales, who happened to be visiting Maryland from Florida, took her 6-year-old granddaughter, Lucila, to the Baltimore pilgrimage. When she knelt on the streets in adoration of the Blessed Sacrament on the Solemnity of the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus, she said, she thanked God for all his blessings.

“I was thinking of how wonderful he is in his blessed Sacred Heart,” she said.

Her love for the Eucharist has grown stronger by participating in the event, she said.

People pray in front of the Eucharist at St. Michael the Archangel Ukrainian Catholic Church in Baltimore June 7, 2024. (Kevin J. Parks/CR Staff)

“He’s truly there,” she said. “His presence is there. You can just feel his love and all these people – they all love him.”

Bronwyn Burke, a St. Alphonsus parishioner, said she was pleased to see so many Catholic churches coming together for the pilgrimage and to see hundreds of people united in their devotion to the Blessed Sacrament.

“It’s making me think about my own devotion, how maybe I should be more strongly devoted,” she said.

Among those participating in the pilgrimage were 60 parishioners of the pastorate of St. Louis in Clarksville and St. Francis of Assisi in Fulton – 50 of whom traveled to Baltimore on a bus for the celebration.

The day’s events concluded with a festival at Patterson Park in East Baltimore that featured songs by the Archdiocesan Black Catholic Choir and a Spanish-language musical ensemble. “Stepping for Jesus,” a group of young people at St. Peter Claver and St. Pius V in West Baltimore, also performed sacred dance.  

Janice Curtis Greene portrays Venerable Mother Mary Lange during a June 7, 2024, festival at Patterson Park in Baltimore during the National Eucharistic Pilgrimage. (Kevin J. Parks/CR Staff)

Catholic storyteller Janice Curtis Greene, dressed as Venerable Mother Mary Lange, portrayed the Baltimore-based founder of the world’s first sustained religious community for Black women. Speaking in the voice of Mother Lange, Greene told about 50 gathered in a park gazebo how the Oblates trusted in God’s providence in the face of racism and opposition.

“When you do God’s will, he will take care of you,” she said. “And I just want you to know that it’s not about becoming a saint. It’s not about the adulation of people.  It’s about doing God’s will.”

St. Elizabeth Ann Seton, the first American-born saint who ministered in Baltimore and Emmitsburg, was also recognized during the Patterson Park festival, as a parishioner of the Baltimore Basilica read a poem about her life and Sister Maria Clara of the Crucified, a member of the Sisters Poor of Jesus Christ, performed a dance.

The National Eucharistic Pilgrimage continues its journey to Indianapolis over the next few weeks. The next stop for the Seton route pilgrims? The Archdiocese of Washington.

Email George Matysek at


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