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Article: Jersey Shore children encounter Jesus at stop on National Eucharistic Pilgrimage

By Sharon Delaney

Catholic News Agency

Jun 2, 2024

This story originally appeared on Catholic News Agency.

With school uniforms pressed, matching hair ribbons, and hands folded in prayer, hundreds of school children from the Diocese of Trenton, New Jersey, greeted the most special guest imaginable: Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament. 

Fresh off a trek across New Jersey, Jesus in the Eucharist arrived May 29 at St. Mary of the Pines Church in Manahawkin on the New Jersey shore as part of the National Eucharistic Pilgrimage for a day of adoration, a Eucharistic procession, and holy Mass celebrated by

Bishop David O’Connell of the Diocese of Trenton. The diocesan event was designed especially to bring awareness to school children about the real presence of Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament.

Jesus arrived accompanied by clergy, seminarians, and religious sisters as well as five “Perpetual Pilgrims” — young adults who have put their lives on hold in order to share their love for Jesus in the Eucharist. They are processing with him for 65 straight days and 1,000 miles on the eastern St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Route of the National Eucharistic Pilgrimage, which began in New Haven, Connecticut.

Four routes. One goal.

From the big cities to the sandy hamlets of the Jersey shore, the goal of this pilgrimage is simple: to revive and deepen devotion to Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament by meeting the faithful where they are.

The National Eucharistic Pilgrimage is a part of the National Eucharistic Revival, which began in 2022. This unprecedented initiative was designed to renew awareness and devotion within the United States to Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament.

The National Eucharistic Pilgrimage began on Pentecost Sunday, May 19, with four routes setting off from launch sites in Connecticut, Minnesota, Texas, and California, and forming the sign of the cross over the nation as they converge July 17–21 in Indianapolis. There, Jesus will be enthroned at the 10th National Eucharistic Congress — the first such congress to be held in the United States since 1941.

Taken together, all four routes of the pilgrimage will travel 6,000 miles through 27 states and 65 dioceses. 

Marina Frattaroli, from Dallas, is a Perpetual Pilgrim on the St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Route. A recent graduate from Columbia Law School, Frattaroli was welcomed into the Catholic Church in 2022.

“One of the things that has surprised me the most has been how big this pilgrimage is,” Frattaroli shared. “From the bishops and priests to the laity, people want to be part of this. And they’re showing up.” 

“Yesterday was a work and school day in the middle of the week. For the entire all-day procession, the line of pilgrims walking with us was a mile long,” she recalled.

 A God that wants to be with you

“We’re on an adventure!” declared Natalie Garza, a high school theology teacher from Kansas City and a Perpetual Pilgrim on the St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Route. Garza spoke to the students about the real presence of Jesus in the Eucharist. “Every adventure has a destination,” she said. “We will have a life with Jesus forever, or a life without Jesus forever. We have to choose our destination. We have a God who wants to be with us.”

Speaking to the young people, Dominic Carstens, a student at Wyoming Catholic College and a fellow Perpetual Pilgrim, pointed to the monstrance. “Yesterday, I was so tired. We walked 17 miles in one day and I didn’t think I could go on. I looked at Jesus and remembered the Bible verse John 15:12-13: ‘This is my commandment: love one another as I love you. No one has greater love than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.’ I wasn’t alone. Jesus cheered me on.”

The highway to heaven

With clouds of incense rising up to the bright blue sky, the Eucharistic procession made its way across the grounds of St. Mary of the Pines. Led by clergy, altar servers, musicians, and the Perpetual Pilgrims, the students joyfully processed behind Jesus to celebrate Mass with Bishop O’Connell.

During his homily, O’Connell shared the story of Blessed Carlo Acutis, an Italian teenager who died in 2006. He is the patron of youth for the Diocese of Trenton, and he will soon be declared a saint.

“Blessed Carlo’s love for Jesus in the Eucharist changed the world and the Church,” O’Connell said. “He created a website cataloging all of the recorded Eucharistic miracles.”

O’Connell whispered into the microphone: “In fact, he was a gamer and a computer geek!” eliciting chuckles from the students.

“Carlo believed that Jesus in the Eucharist was his ‘highway to heaven.’ He went to Mass every day. He said the rosary every day. He loved Jesus and stayed close to Our Lord every day. I hope his example of loving Jesus in Eucharist and staying close to him will inspire you.”


Sharon Delaney is a home-school mom and a freelance writer. Previously, she was an inspirational writer whose stories have appeared in Guideposts, Reader's Digest, and Writer's Digest.


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