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Article: National Religious Pilgrimage Makes a Stop at St. Mary of the Pines

One of Just Three Parishes in the Diocese of Trenton Visited

This article was written by Rick Mellerup for, The Newsmagazine of Long Beach Island and Southern Ocean County. The original article was published on June 12, 2024 about the events on Day 12 of the National Eucharistic Pilgrimage's Seton Route which took place in Manahawkin, NJ on May 29, 2024. This blog's coverage of those events in Manahawkin is HERE.

There’s a huge religious pilgrimage taking place in the United States even as we speak, and the St. Mary’s Parish Center and the St. Mary Academy in Manahawkin recently played a part in it.

It is called the National Eucharistic Pilgrimage. Roman Catholics throughout the country are involved.

A quick description: “Thousands followed Christ throughout his earthly ministry,” reads the pilgrimage’s website. “Since his Resurrection, countless Christians have traveled to holy sites in order to connect concretely with places where heaven and earth have touched.

“While pilgrimages have a long legacy within the Church, this is the first undertaken at such a scale – walking coast-to-coast with our Eucharistic Lord!”

The pilgrimage took off during the weekend of Pentecost, May 17 to May 19. It will end July 16 when the pilgrims arrive in Indianapolis before attending the National Eucharistic Conference from July 17 to July 21.

Pilgrims are following four routes.

The northern route, called the Marian Route, starts at the headquarters of the Mississippi River in northern Minnesota and winds through Wisconsin and Illinois on its way to Indianapolis.

The eastern route, the Seton Route, started in New Haven, Conn. It then touched or will touch New York, New Jersey, Maryland, Pennsylvania and Ohio before reaching Indiana.

The southern route, which is called the St. Juan Diego Route, kicked off in Brownsville, Texas and then meanders through Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia, Tennessee and Kentucky before ending in Indianapolis.

The western route, the St. Junipero Serra Route, is the longest and most challenging, covering over 2,200 miles over the Rocky Mountains and the Great Plains. It started in California and will visit Nevada, Oregon, Idaho, Utah, Colorado, Nebraska, Iowa, Missouri and Illinois on its way to Indy. That’s a lot of walking!

Scores of thousands of people are expected to participate in the pilgrimage.

So, you’d think if thousands of people were trekking across the country there would have been plenty of coverage on the broadcast networks and cable news. Well, the fact is only a couple of dozen people are walking the entire routes, and even they will take to vehicles in the case of inclement weather or when hitting long stretches of empty road – in the West, towns can be many miles apart.

Those sturdy few are called “Perpetual Pilgrims,” dedicated young adults who will walk as much of the routes as possible. But they will be joined by chaplains, Franciscan friars and laypeople for stretches of the journey. And during stops at certain points, people are invited to join in short processions, Masses and discussions.

Philly, Trenton

And Manahawkin?

The pilgrimage routes do indeed include holy sites.

For example, when the pilgrimage landed in Philadelphia for five days in late May and early June, a Mass was held at the National Shrine of St. John Neumann, where an altar rests on a glass case containing the one-time Bishop of Philadelphia’s remains.

And, of course, the pilgrims visit a number of cathedrals along their routes, such as St. Mary of the Assumption Cathedral in Trenton.

Grand buildings, for sure.

But rather amazingly, St. Mary of the Pines Church in Manahawkin was added to the list. In fact, the pilgrims stopped there for both morning and evening events on May 29. It was one of just three spots the pilgrims visited in the Diocese of Trenton, the others being the aforementioned cathedral and St. Mary, Mother of the Church Parish in Bordentown. There are over 100 parishes in the Diocese of Trenton, so St. Mary of the Pines being picked for a stop was quite the honor.

How did that happen? Monsignor Ken Tuzenue, the pastor of St. Mary’s Parish, didn’t know.

He said one day he got a call from the diocese asking if St. Mary’s Parish would be interested in hosting an event. Needless to say, when the monsignor heard what that event was, he was quick to say yes.

“I guess maybe it was because we were on the shore.”

He said it had gone very well. The church, he said, holds about 1,100 people, and it was filled that evening, with many priests from other parishes attending, as well as religious sisters from all over the region. The Mass was celebrated by Bishop David M. O’Connell, the 10th Bishop of the Diocese of Trenton.

The evening event, which also included a solemn procession from the church to the parish center, where there was an Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament with praise and worship, was the second of the day in Manahawkin. That morning the students of the adjacent St. Mary Academy were invited to Mass, also celebrated by Bishop O’Connell. They, too, processed solemnly, from the parish center to the church.

A memorable day and evening for all who attended.


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