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Article: National Eucharistic Pilgrimage brings ‘joyous’ and ‘amazing’ experience to Emmitsburg

This article appeared in The Catholic Herald


June 6, 2024

Gerry Jackson

Catholic Review


EMMITSBURG — Archbishop William E. Lori described the National Eucharistic Pilgrimage’s June 6 stop at the National Shrine of St. Elizabeth Ann Seton as a “joyous” occasion.


The emotion was prevalent throughout the day as the national journey leading to the National Eucharistic Congress next month in Indianapolis paid tribute to the patron of the eastern part of the pilgrimage known as the Seton Route.


Archbishop Lori helped kick off the festivities in Emmitsburg with a morning Mass at the shrine followed by a Eucharistic procession through the Frederick County town of 6,000.

More than 1,100 participated in the Mass and procession, which was one of the largest gatherings of the pilgrimage, according to Seton Route spokesperson Kevin Shinkle.

Rob Judge, executive director of the Seton Shrine for the past 13 years, said it was the most well attended event at the shrine since Mother Seton’s canonization in 1975. 


“What a blessing, what a grace,” Archbishop Lori said in his homily about the stop in Emmitsburg.


“When I originally heard the Seton Shrine would be one of the stops for the eucharistic pilgrimage, I was so, so happy,” Archbishop Lori said before Mass. “It’s the home of the first American-born Saint, Baltimore was the first diocese in the United States and Mount St. Mary’s (located in Emmitsburg) was the second seminary in the United States. So it’s very fitting.”


The pilgrimage’s stop in Maryland is a welcome respite for the Archdiocese of Baltimore, which has dealt with parish mergers and Chapter 11 bankruptcy in the past several months. 

“We’ve had challenges,” Archbishop Lori said. “But an event like this is exactly why I became a priest – to share in the love of Christ. And the Eucharist is Jesus’ gift of himself to us.”


Archbishop Lori said he hoped the eucharistic pilgrimage will serve as a source of inspiration for the “unchurched” and inactive Catholics.


“It says a lot about the state of the Church to have such an incredible and vibrant event,” he said. “An event like this reinforces that our faith is rooted in Jesus Christ and the Eucharist.”

In his homily, Archbishop Lori gave a brief history of Elizabeth Ann Seton’s journey from a wife and mother to becoming a Catholic convert and the founder of a religious order and Catholic schools. He noted her devotion to the Eucharist and said he hoped everyone could be “overtaken” by the same faith in the body and blood of Christ as Saint Seton.


Those in Emmitsburg, who came from near and far, said they were certainly moved by Saint Seton’s spirit.


One group of 40 traveled by bus from Fayetteville, N.C., to celebrate the patron of their parish, St. Elizabeth Ann Seton.


Joe Kruger, a Dundalk native who later moved with his family to Hanover, Pa., traveled all the way from Columbus, Ohio, to share in the events earlier in the week in Pennsylvania and then in Emmitsburg. He said he has quite the legacy with the town since his sixth great grandfather donated much of the land for Mount St. Mary’s University and the shrine.


Kruger, whose late father, Charles, was a deacon for the Baltimore and Harrisburg dioceses, said his ancestors were the first to settle Emmitsburg in the 1730s and did so because they had been persecuted for their Catholic faith in Southern Maryland.


 “This has been an incredible trip,” Kruger said, “Tuesday was amazing in Hanover (Pa.), and this has been another great celebration. We often visit Emmitsburg as a family, but this was really special.” 


The word many repeated to describe the event was “amazing.”


“Kudos to our area for showing up in such force,” said Pat Murphy of Leesburg, Va. “This is amazing.”


Daughter of Charity Sister Maureen Houlihan said the shrine was so crowded for Mass that she couldn’t find a seat and retreated to her room to watch the video livestream.


“This is amazing,” Sister Maureen. “We usually get a pretty big crowd for Masses, but nothing like this.”


Michael Landis, from nearby Biglerville, Pa., said: “The world needs Jesus, and Jesus is here in body and blood today.”


Judge, executive director of the Seton Shrine, said he was thrilled that the pilgrimage honored the site’s rich Catholic heritage.


“It’s a great honor to be a part of this event and to collaborate with the Archdiocese of Baltimore on it. Archbishop Lori has always been so supportive of our mission.


“It’s great to be able to further the knowledge and love for the Eucharist because that is what attracted St. Elizabeth Ann Seton to the Catholic faith and what became such a big part of her mission,” Judge said. “An event like this helps us fulfill and promote her mission.


She is one of the most relatable Saints whether it be as a mother, a layperson, as an educator or her ministry. A national initiative like this helps people become more acquainted with her. We were very fortunate that she was chosen as one of the patrons for this event. 

“We are thrilled and humbled to be a part of this,” Judge added.


Mount St. Mary’s Seminary Rector Monsignor Andrew Baker said it was a humbling experience to see so many in Emmitsburg.


“It’s awesome to see so many people here adoring our Lord,” Monsignor Baker said. “It’s humbling. We are in awe of the number of people. I don’t think Emmitsburg has seen anything like this since I’ve been here. It’s an incredible sign and can be used as a catalyst for our Church, which has experienced some discouraging times.”


The National Eucharistic Pilgrimage is a prelude to the National Eucharistic Congress, which expects to host tens of thousands of Catholics July 17-21 in Indianapolis. The pilgrimage and the congress are part of the National Eucharistic Revival, a three-year initiative of the U.S. Catholic bishops that began in 2022 with the aim of deepening Catholics’ love for the Eucharist.


On May 18 and 19, four groups of eight to 10 people each set off from San Francisco (Serra Route); New Haven, Conn. (Saint Seton Route); San Juan, Texas (Saint Juan Diego Route); and Minnesota (Marian Route) to carry the Eucharist into cities and towns along the way. 

The pilgrims travel, often on foot, processing with a monstrance containing the Blessed Sacrament. 


They plan to cover more than 6,500 miles over 27 states and 65 dioceses. The pilgrimage’s four groups of Perpetual Pilgrims are young adults ages 19-29 selected in an application process to travel the full length of each route.


The Maryland stop started in Westminster June 5 and after the June 6 events in Emmitsburg, continued with vespers and eucharistic preaching at the Cathedral of Mary Our Queen.


On June 7, Baltimore hosts the pilgrimage with stops for 8:30 a.m. Mass at the Basilica of the Assumption, a procession St. Mary’s Historic Site on Paca Street, a walk from Our Daily Bread to Patterson Park and vespers, benediction and a festival at the park.

From Baltimore, the pilgrimage continues to Washington, D.C.


Email Gerry Jackson at gjackson@CatholicReview.org



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