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Article: Immense public participation surrounds National Eucharistic Pilgrimage

We thank Christopher Dacanay and the team at the Weirton Daily Times for their coverage and this article which was published on June 24, 2024, originally here.

STEUBENVILLE — Immense public participation centered around devotion to a fundamental Catholic teaching surrounded the National Eucharistic Pilgrimage, which passed through Weirton and Steubenville between Friday and Sunday.

Over those three days were a number of events organized by the Catholic Diocese of Steubenville, meant to welcome and worship with one of four pilgrim groups making their way to the 10th National Eucharistic Congress in Indianapolis’ Lucas Oil Stadium, which will occur July 17-21.

Having departed May 17 from New Haven, Conn., the westward-heading group was known as the Elizabeth Ann Seton Route and was composed of two clergy, one friar and six lay individuals: Pittsburgh seminarian Christoph Bernas, Dominic Carstens, Zoe Dongas, Marina Frattaroli, Natalie Garza and Amayrani Higueldo.

The pilgrimage and congress are all part of the National Eucharistic Revival, an effort begun in 2022 by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops to reinvigorate American Catholics’ belief in and devotion to the Eucharist, believed to be the body and blood of Jesus.

Friday evening saw the Steubenville diocese host the musical event “Sing-Spiration” at the Louis and Sandra Berkman Amphitheater to welcome the Seton pilgrims, who were arriving from Weirton. Trail Life Troop OH-0024 led the pledge of allegiance before performances by the Leonard family, Celia and Hannah Mergen, IChThUs and Catholic Family Land volunteers.

Upon the pilgrims’ arrival with the Eucharist, which they will travel with throughout the pilgrimage’s duration, a Eucharistic procession began, following a blessing from Bishop Paul Bradley, former apostolic administrator of the Steubenville diocese.

The procession started on Adams Street and made its way to Fourth Street, continuing to St. Peter Catholic Church. Joining in were hundreds of individuals, many representing groups like schools or religious orders. People joined in or watched from the side, with some kneeling as the Eucharist — contained in a golden display known as a monstrance — passed by.

Once at St. Peter’s steps, individuals filed inside and prayed together the 14 Stations of the Eucharist, which identify Biblical prefigurements or analogs of the Eucharist. During the service, Bradley delivered a reflection on the Eucharist and the pilgrimage’s significance.

“This precious gift of the Eucharist, the real presence of Christ’s body and blood, soul and divinity, which were are given as our spiritual nourishment in every Mass … is the same sacred presence that accompanies us along these four national pilgrimages throughout the United States to remind us, and everyone we encounter, that our God remains with us.

“A Eucharistic procession is an outward expression of our deep internal belief that we are to bring the presence of Jesus into our homes and schools, into our workplace and the marketplace and indeed into the streets and all the places we go every day. As Pope Francis has said, ‘The Lord comes to our streets in order to speak a blessing for us and to give us courage, and he asks that we too be a blessing and a gift for others.”

The next day saw an evening prayer service at Holy Family Church, followed by a potluck dinner and meet-and-greet with the pilgrims.

After singing an introductory song, attendees heard a reflection from the Rev. Roger Landry, one of the Seton route’s perpetual pilgrims, a priest of the Diocese of Fall River, Mass., and chaplain to Columbia University.

Landry noted studies suggesting that many baptized Catholics have strayed from the fundamental doctrine of the real presence of Jesus in the Eucharist, and even more neglect their obligation to attend the Mass on Sundays, where the Eucharistic celebration takes place.

“If we really believe this (the Eucharist) is the same God — born of the blessed virgin Mary, adored in Bethlehem — how do we treat him? Do our words speak of the utmost reverence? Do our gestures speak of enormous love? Do our priorities demonstrate that we believe this is truly God?”

Attendees also heard from lay perpetual pilgrim Dominic Carstens, who told of insight he’d gained during the previous 35 days of the 65-day pilgrimage.

A Wyoming native and Wyoming Catholic College student, spoke on how reflecting on the Eucharist helped him to overcome general grumpiness that he experienced during one of the days of the pilgrimage, during which pilgrims would walk as much as 19 miles per day in the hot sun.

Carstens also spoke on the location he felt the pilgrimage was most needed during its path so far — the Kensington of Philadelphia — a place he said is plagued by poverty and addiction. Carstens said the Eucharist’s presence in this neighborhood is a reminder that Jesus wants to come into every individual’s personal places of brokenness and heal their own “Kensingtons.”

Sunday, the pilgrimage’s final day in Steubenville, began with the Mass at Holy Rosary Church, presided over by Bishop Edward Lohse, who was appointed as Steubenville’s new apostolic administrator June 14. Currently bishop of the Diocese of Kalamazoo, Mich., Lohse will oversee completion of the discernment period preceding the Steubenville Diocese’s possible merger with the Diocese of Columbus.

In his homily, Lohse said everything in the world undergoes change. He noted specifically the Steubenville diocese’s ongoing discernment process, adding, “Where it will take us, I can’t tell you.”

However, he mentioned the Biblical account of Jesus calming the waves of a storm that was rocking his apostles’ boat and said that true peace comes from the “eternal and unchanging” presence of Jesus in the Eucharist and Catholics’ identity in him.

“There was and is a calm within him which all of the chaos outside cannot touch. The calm, the peace, is within Christ, and no chaos can disturb it, and he sleeps peacefully in the bow of the ship. … With Christ in the bow of this ship (the church), where it takes us is where we ought to be.”

Following the Mass, Lohse and the Eucharist — trailed by a motorcade of attendees — were driven on Sunset Boulevard, Washington Street and state Route 7 to the Steubenville Marina for the pilgrimage’s next phase, the “Put Out into the Deep” Eucharistic boatercade.

Lohse and others boarded a sternwheeler, which traveled down the Ohio River to Wheeling.

Along the way, the boat’s bell rang, signaling Lohse and the Eucharist to bless the community on the Ohio side, while Bishop Mark Brennan of the Diocese of Wheeling-Charleston blessed those on the West Virginia side. Blessing locations included the Steubenville Marina, Wellsburg Wharf, Wellsburg-Brilliant Bridge, Mazeroski Park, Pike Island Locks and Dam and Heritage Port.

Pilgrimage attendees Barb Wolansky and Frances McGuire watched from the marina as the sternwheeler drifted out of sight, a hymn being played over the boat’s loudspeakers. The two traveled from the Cleveland area to participate in the pilgrimage, Wolansky said, adding that the blessing from the boat was “a beautiful thing.”


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