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Article: National Eucharistic Pilgrimage marches through extreme heat to bring Jesus to the people

This article, by Jonah McKeown, appeared on Catholic News Agency on June 20.

Amid a brutal heat wave in the Midwest and Northeast this week, the pilgrims on each of the four legs of the National Eucharistic Pilgrimage have all passed what is roughly the halfway point on their journeys to Indianapolis. 

The four pilgrimage groups — currently in Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, Alabama, and Nebraska — will converge in Indianapolis on July 16 in time for the National Eucharistic Congress from July 17–21. A cohort of 30 young men and women have committed to walking the entirety of the routes, encouraging people to join along the way as they process with the Eucharistic Jesus. The processions have attracted thousands of participants in many areas. 

“We have definitely spent a lot of this week in the heat, in the mid-90s,” said Marina Frattaroli, one of the pilgrims on the eastern Seton Route, at a Wednesday press conference. Much of the eastern U.S. is baking in unseasonably warm spring weather, with Pittsburgh under an excessive heat warning until Saturday evening. 

“On Monday, I believe that we walked 15, 16 miles in the mid-90s. And so the team definitely is feeling the heat wave … it’s another opportunity to bring out those big prayer intentions, as we unite ourselves in Christ,” she said.

Frattaroli mentioned that despite the heat, the pilgrims have been able to act as “ambassadors” several times and explain the purpose of the processions to non-Catholic onlookers. 

“There has always been a crowd with us. And even Monday, over 15 miles … there were well over 100 people, even at the smallest, and probably closer to 200 in the crowd at all times. So people are coming out, and people are even enduring the hard days together,” she said. 

Marian Route pilgrim Matthew Heidenreich told about a boat procession the group took on Shawano Lake in Wisconsin and a walk to nearby Camp Tekakwitha, where a large number of kids at the summer camp greeted the pilgrims. On Sunday, the group visited the National Shrine of Our Lady of Champion near Green Bay, the site of the only approved Marian apparition in the United States. 

Heidenreich said it has been a blessing to engage in service projects for the poor during the pilgrimage as well. The Marian group will soon reach Milwaukee, where dozens of events are planned. 

As told by Serra Route pilgrim Jaella Mac Au, a procession at a lake in Nebraska included an unexpected surprise — one of the vans that occasionally carries the Eucharist and the pilgrims got stuck in some sand. 

“We were just like, oh, my gosh, like, what are we gonna do, Lord? ... We asked for the prayers of St. Anthony, and praise God, our van got out. And it was just such a beautiful team bonding moment where we were digging out the van and pushing together, and it was just so beautiful to also include Our Lord in it.”

On the southern Juan Diego Route, which began in Texas, the pilgrims endured extreme heat near the start of the route but have found respite at a retreat the last few days at the Shrine of the Most Blessed Sacrament in Hanceville, Alabama.  

As in past weeks, the pilgrims praised the hospitality of the people they encountered on the route and said they have been well-fed with local food at almost every stage. 

Mac Au said her favorite food so far has been tacos and other Hispanic food provided to them when they went through Sacramento, while Frattaroli praised the authentic Italian food they were given while passing through Brooklyn. 

Catholics throughout the U.S. are encouraged to register to join the pilgrims in walking short sections of the pilgrimages and joining in numerous other special events put on by their local dioceses. To read ongoing coverage about the National Eucharistic Pilgrimage and National Eucharistic Congress, visit the National Catholic Register.


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