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Article: National Eucharistic Pilgrimage chaplain marks 25th jubilee amid 'life-changing adventure'

This article was written by Maria Wiering from OSV News and published on June 28 in The Detroit Catholic and many other places.

(OSV News) -- Under the star-stenciled ceiling of St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Church in Pickerington, Ohio, Father Roger Landry, a priest chaplain traveling the National Eucharistic Pilgrimage's eastern route, gave thanks to God for his 25 years as a priest June 26.

"The pilgrimage of Christian life is in fact a Eucharistic procession, because Christ himself accompanies us each day -- on both sunny days and rainy days -- in the holy Eucharist, as he strives as our Good Shepherd to lead us to the verdant pastures where he has prepared an eternal banquet for us and wants to make our cup overflow," said Father Landry in a homily at a Mass marking the 25th jubilee of his priestly ordination.

The Eucharistic processions he's been helping to lead since May are not only part of the National Eucharistic Pilgrimage's St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Route, he said, but are "also part of the church's pilgrimage through time, not to Indianapolis, but to the eternal Jerusalem."

Father Landry is a priest of the Diocese of Fall River in Massachusetts, chaplain at Columbia University in New York, and a sought-after preacher and retreat master. He is also the only priest chaplain traveling a full pilgrimage route to Indianapolis -- a journey that he described in his homily as a "life-changing adventure with the Lord."

"What a great grace it is that in divine providence I am able to celebrate this Mass of thanksgiving as a Seton Route pilgrim here in this beautiful church built for the Eucharist and placed under the prayers of this great Eucharistic convert, saint and intercessor, whose first-class relic my fellow pilgrims and I have been privileged to take turns wearing over the course of our journey," he said.

He held up a small brown packet on a rope necklace.

"Today I pulled rank, and I have that first-class relic with me as I pray tonight," he said with a smile, kissing the relic before tucking it away.

Father Landry and the Seton Route's seven "perpetual pilgrims" -- the young adults journeying the full pilgrimage route -- spent their sixth week on the pilgrimage in West Virginia and eastern Ohio. On Sunday, June 23, they processed down the Ohio River with the Eucharist on a sternwheeler boat alongside Bishop Mark E. Brennan of Wheeling-Charleston, West Virginia, and Bishop Edward M. Lohse of Kalamazoo, Michigan, who was recently appointed the apostolic administrator of the Diocese of Steubenville, Ohio.

Catholics from West Virginia and Ohio gathered at designated spots along the shore to receive a Eucharistic blessing from their bishop. The following day, they entered the Diocese of Columbus, Ohio, with stops at several parishes and a Catholic school as they headed toward the city of Columbus for the weekend.

Over the same week, the 23 perpetual pilgrims on the pilgrimage's other three routes traveled through Georgia and Tennessee; Wisconsin and Illinois; and Nebraska, Iowa and Kansas.

Since Pentecost weekend May 18-19, the perpetual pilgrims have been journeying -- often by foot but always with the Eucharist -- accompanied by priest chaplains and members of the Franciscan Friars of the Renewal to Indianapolis, where the first National Eucharistic Congress in 83 years takes place at Lucas Oil Stadium July 17-21.

The pilgrimage and the congress are highlights of the National Eucharistic Revival, a three-year initiative the U.S. bishops launched in 2022 to inspire deeper love for and understanding of Jesus Christ's real presence in the Eucharist.

Pilgrims on the St. Juan Diego Route stopped seven times in the Archdiocese of Atlanta, first attending a welcome Mass June 21 at St. Mary Magdalene Church in Newnan, Georgia.

Following the Mass, there was a Eucharistic procession at St. Mary's Academy in Fayetteville, where the faithful kneeled and prayed before the Eucharist in the monstrance.

Father Valery Akoh, pastor of St. Matthew Church in Tyrone, processed with the Blessed Sacrament and led the Eucharistic caravan around the academy's football field, praying the rosary along the way.

"It's so hot outside, but it's warm and welcoming," one parishioner said to a friend. "That's what it feels like: God's love."

Perpetual pilgrim Joshua Velasquez, an undergraduate student at the University of Notre Dame in Indiana, testified inside the academy's auditorium, speaking about his experience on the pilgrimage so far.

Kept by his side the entire journey is Velasquez's Polaroid camera. He has been capturing images of their travels and memories. In his testimony, Velasquez shared a thought-provoking moment when he took a picture of the monstrance in their van.

"I decided to take a picture of our Lord in the dark van, and it's safe to say that the two pictures I took turned out to be pitch black," he said. "It got me thinking, where is the light?

Even though it was frightening to see a void, I saw that there was something beautiful about this. Because when things seem like it is utter darkness, it is when the brightest light is shining."

The crowd began to understand Velasquez's story and kneeled as he expanded on his reflection of the Polaroid images.

"Today, I want you to reflect on the mystery of our Lord's passion," Velasquez said. "See how our Lord brings light in the darkness, as even the dark is light for God, because he brings good out of the deepest evils. Whatever place of darkness might reign in your hearts, hear that the place of darkness can become light. From darkness springs light."

The pilgrims celebrated Mass at Atlanta's Cathedral of Christ the King June 23 with Archbishop Gregory J. Hartmayer of Atlanta followed by a procession on the cathedral grounds. On June 24 they stopped for Mass and adoration in the Diocese of Knoxville, Tennessee, and the following day entered the Diocese of Nashville, Tennessee, where they'll journey through June 30. On June 28, they expected to spend the day with the Dominican Sisters of St. Cecilia at their Nashville motherhouse.

On the pilgrimage's western St. Junipero Serra Route, pilgrims left Nebraska June 23 after a marking the June 21 transition between the Diocese of Lincoln and the Archdiocese of Omaha with a 5-mile Eucharistic procession at the Cloisters on the Platte, an Ignatian retreat center, that ended at the iconic, glass-walled Holy Family Shrine near Interstate 80.

"It was just incredible seeing this chapel overlooking the highway," said Serra Route pilgrim Jimmy Velasco, a seminarian from the Archdiocese of San Francisco, on a June 26 media call.

In the Omaha Archdiocese, the Serra pilgrims stopped at St. Augustine Indian Mission, a Catholic institution founded by St. Katharine Drexel that serves students from the Omaha and Winnebago tribes; Creighton University; and St. Cecilia's Cathedral before crossing the Missouri River into the Diocese of Des Moines, Iowa, where they walked in an 8-mile procession on Wabash Trace Nature Trail.

Forty-eight hours after entering Iowa, they entered the Archdiocese of Kansas City in Kansas. At Benedictine College, they joined the monks of St. Benedict's Abbey for vespers and solemn Benediction. On June 26, they stopped in Topeka, Kansas, where they joined an "Evening of Eucharistic Amazement" with overnight adoration at Most Pure Heart Catholic Church.

June 27 included a 1-mile procession from Assumption Church on the north side of the Kansas State Capitol campus to the former Monroe School, now the Brown vs. Board of Education National Historical Park, which commemorates the 1954 U.S. Supreme Court ruling that found racial segregation in public schools unconstitutional. The pilgrims planned to enter the Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph, Missouri, June 29.

On the pilgrimage's northern Marian Route, pilgrims spent June 18-26 in the Archdiocese of Milwaukee, which included Eucharistic processions at the Basilica and National Shrine of Our Lady Help of Christians, also known as "Holy Hill," in Hubertus, Wisconsin; the Schoenstatt shrine in Waukesha; and Archdiocese of Milwaukee Fatima Shrine in Milwaukee.

On June 26, they entered Illinois and the Archdiocese of Chicago with a Mass, adoration and a procession for youth at Mundelein Seminary in northern suburban Chicago. A variety of events are planned in the Chicago area through June 30, including Mass at Holy Name Cathedral and a Eucharistic procession with Cardinal Blase J. Cupich, followed by Holy Qurbana -- the name for Mass in the Catholic Church's Syro-Malabar rite -- and a procession at Mar Thomas Sleeha Cathedral, the Syro-Malabar cathedral in a western Chicago suburb, with Bishop Mar Joy Alappatt.

In Ohio June 26, the Seton Route's perpetual pilgrims -- Christoph Bernas, Dominic Carstens, Zoe Dongas, Marina Frattaroli, Natalie Garza and Amayrani Higueldo -- wrote and performed a song to honor their chaplain's jubilee during a reception hosted by the parish. They posted their video to their travel blog,

They set it to the tune of worship song "Good Good Father" by Chris Tomlin. "We call it "Good Good Father Landry," Dongas told the audience with a smile.

"'Cause we've been with you now / for 40 days and nights / 560 hours with the luckiest priest alive / because you're bringing Jesus Christ / across America ...," the pilgrims sang, accompanied by Garza's guitar and Dongas' harmonica, capturing aspects of his ministry and personality.

"You're our spiritual father," they harmonized with seriousness, repeating the phrase, then added, laughing, "and you talk, and you talk, and you talk ... and he opened his mouth and he spoke -- for 45 minutes."

Afterwards, Father Landry hugged each pilgrim. In his homily, he had named each of them, saying, "I hope to have the privilege to continue to accompany them not just over the next 25 days, but I hope 25 years, into eternity."


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