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Article: More than 1,200 take to the streets of Washington for National Eucharistic Pilgrimage

Richard Szczepanowski

Catholic Standard (Original article HERE)

Jun 8, 2024

More than 1,200 faithful took to the streets of Washington, D.C. June 8 to celebrate the arrival of the National Eucharistic Pilgrimage in The Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Washington with prayers, songs and a procession.

Praying the Luminous Mysteries of the Rosary, hearing the Word of God proclaimed and following behind a monstrance holding Jesus Christ in the Most Blessed Sacrament, the faithful processed through the streets of Northeast Washington, D.C.

“I’ve been looking forward to being a part of this since the first time I heard about it,” said participant Mark Forrest. He said he wanted to be a part of the procession because “if others see what I believe, maybe it will inspire them to believe.”

The arrival in Washington is among the many stops being made by those participating in the National Eucharistic Pilgrimage’s Eastern Route – one of four national Eucharistic pilgrimages being held prior to July’s National Eucharistic Congress in Indianapolis. Other national Eucharistic pilgrimages include a Western Route, a Northern Route and a Southern Route.

The Eastern Route that arrived in this archdiocese is named for St. Elizabeth Ann Seton, the first American-born saint, and includes stops at places she served in New York and Maryland. Just prior to arriving in Washington, a Eucharistic procession and similar events were held in Emmitsburg, Maryland, and in Baltimore.

About 1,000 miles long and taking two months to complete, the Eastern Route pilgrimage began May 19 – Pentecost – in Connecticut, wending its way through several states including Maryland and the District of Columbia, and will conclude in Indianapolis in time for the July 17-21 National Eucharistic Congress. Six “perpetual pilgrims” and a priest are making the entire journey with the Eucharist in a monstrance. Catholics have been invited to join the pilgrims along the way and participate in events associated with stops along the pilgrimage route.

Natalie Garza, a resident of Kansas City who is one of the Seton Route’s perpetual pilgrims, said she is traveling across the country with the Eucharist “to show that God is still with us.”

“He promised ‘I will be with you to the end of the age,’” Garza said. “And that is what this pilgrimage shows.”

Christoph Bernas, another perpetual pilgrim from Pittsburgh, said he has two particular reasons for participating in the procession.

“I really hope we as the Church in America can increase our devotion to Our Lord in the Eucharist,” he said. “It (the Eucharist) has brought me joy and peace in my life, and I want to share it.”

Prior to the procession, a Mass was celebrated by Washington Auxiliary Bishop Evelio Menjivar at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception. About 36 priests concelebrated the Mass, including Cardinal Donald Wuerl, the archbishop emeritus of Washington.

More than 2,000 people attended the Mass, more than half of whom later took part in the Eucharistic procession, which had as its theme “Walk with Jesus: To Jesus Through Mary.”

“It is truly edifying and beautiful to see this church so full,” said Father Michael Fuller, general secretary of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, who served as the homilist at the Mass.

He said those on the pilgrimage were “literally on a journey with Christ.”

“A pilgrimage is an outward journey meant to trigger an inner journey – a journey of the heart… where we encounter the Lord,” Father Fuller said. “We are people on the way to a deeper encounter with the Lord.”

Noting that the Mass and procession were being held on the day that the Catholic Church celebrates the Memorial of the Immaculate Heart of Mary, Father Fuller encouraged the pilgrims to “imitate the heart of Mary and take in the real presence of the Lord.”

“Let our hearts exult in the Lord and rejoice in His love,” Father Fuller said.

Also noting that the procession was being held on a Marian feast day, Msgr. Walter Rossi, rector of the National Shrine, greeted participants and prayed that “Our Lady accompany our steps, so that as we ‘Walk with Jesus: To Jesus through Mary,’ our will hearts will always beat as one with the heart of her Divine Son.”

During the Mass, prayers were offered for civic and Church leaders and for an end to violence in Ukraine, Haiti and the Holy Land.

Before the end of the Mass, Bishop Menjivar prayed to God that those “who commemorate the Mother of your Son, may glory in the fullness of your grace and experience its continued increase for our salvation.”

At the end of Mass, prior to the start of the procession, the Most Blessed Sacrament was exposed on the Upper Church’s main altar where the faithful could offer their adoration in silent prayer.

After departing the National Shrine, pilgrims – led by Bishop Menjivar, men and women religious and the perpetual pilgrims – processed along a route through the Brookland neighborhood of Northeast Washington, D.C., that included stops at the Angels Unaware statue on the campus of The Catholic University of America; the Nashville Dominicans’ convent on 8th Street; Centro Maria on Jackson Street; the Dominican House of Studies on Michigan Avenue; the headquarters of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops on Fourth Street; the National Shrine’s Rosary Garden on Harewood Road; and concluded at the Saint John Paul II National Shrine, also on Harewood Road.

Each stop included a Scripture reading and reflection and time for adoration. Prayers and reflections were offered in English and Spanish

Some pilgrims made the procession in wheelchairs. Some were pulled in wagons or pushed in baby carriages. All raised their voices in prayer to publicly profess their belief that the Eucharist is indeed the Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity of Jesus Christ.

Occasionally along the route, residents stood in doorways and on apartment balconies or came out to the sidewalk to watch as the Eucharist processed by. Many times onlookers genuflected or bowed or blessed themselves. Several waved and blew kisses.

More than an hour before the start of the early morning Mass and procession, the faithful began arriving at the National Shrine. Among them were Arayely Guzman, Ana Reyes and Mayte Naredo – classmates at Virginia Tech University – who traveled from Roanoke, Virginia to participate in the pilgrimage. It was their first-ever visit to the nation’s capital.

“We’re lucky that our families taught us the faith,” said Guzman, speaking for the group. “We wanted to participate in this pilgrimage in thanksgiving for our faith and to pray for the success of our studies.”

The procession concluded at the Saint John Paul II National Shrine with Benediction followed by a catechesis.

Pope Francis granted to participants in the National Eucharistic Pilgrimage and the National Eucharistic Congress the opportunity to receive a plenary indulgence.

The plenary indulgence is granted to those who participate in the National Eucharistic Pilgrimage at any point between May 19 and July 16. It is also granted to the elderly, infirm, and all those who cannot leave their homes for a serious reason and who participate in spirit with the National Eucharistic Pilgrimage, uniting their prayers, pains, or inconveniences with Christ and the pilgrimage. To receive the plenary indulgence, an individual must fulfill the following conditions: Sacramental Confession, Holy Communion and prayer for the intentions of the Holy Father.

The National Eucharistic Pilgrimage and the subsequent National Eucharistic Congress are part of a three-year National Eucharistic Revival initiated by the U.S. bishops in 2022 to inspire greater understanding of and love for Jesus in the Eucharist. The three-year effort culminates with the congress that will be held July 17-21 in Indianapolis. It is expected to draw tens of thousands of Catholics for Masses, Eucharistic adoration and other devotions and talks by well-known Catholic speakers.


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