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Article: Pilgrims Trekking to National Eucharistic Congress Will Make Two Days of Stops Throughout Diocese of Brooklyn

This article appeared in The Tablet.

By Paula Katinas

May 17, 2024

DOWNTOWN BROOKLYN — Bishop Robert Brennan will be on the Brooklyn Bridge on Sunday, May 26, but he won’t be taking a casual stroll to see the skyline. 

Bishop Brennan will be on the historic span to accept a monstrance with the Blessed Sacrament from five pilgrims who are stopping in the Archdiocese of New York and the Diocese of Brooklyn on their way to Indianapolis for the National Eucharistic Congress, set to begin July 17. 

The pilgrims, who will start their journey in New Haven, Connecticut, on May 18, will be traveling from there to Indianapolis — a distance of more than 700 miles — on foot. 

The group is one of four groups that will be starting out from four different parts of the U.S. and traveling to Indianapolis for the July congress.

Each of four routes the pilgrims will be taking have been named in honor of the Blessed Mother and different saints, Marian, St. Junípero Serra, St. Juan Diego, and St. Elizabeth Ann Seton. 

The pilgrims stopping here in New York City — Dominic Carstens, Zoe Dongas, Marina Frattaroli, Natalie Garza, and Amayrani Higueldo — are walking the St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Route. 

Dongas, a parishioner of St. Joseph’s Church in Greenwich Village who works in the Young Adult Outreach Office in the archdiocese, said she’s ready for the arduous journey. She is preparing by taking long walks so that she can break in her new walking shoes.

“I’ve been walking to work instead of taking the train,” said Dongas, who lives in Queens and works in Midtown. “I’ve been getting groups of people together to take long walks in the city. A few weeks ago, we walked from St. Joseph’s in Greenwich Village to St. Joseph the Holy Family in Harlem. That’s a distance of about nine miles.”

However she said the main part of her preparation is not physical, but spiritual. “I am praying to the Lord for the grace I will need to complete the pilgrimage and for Him to be steadfast with me,” she explained. 

The Seton Route pilgrims will be making several stops in the Archdiocese of New York and the Diocese of Brooklyn, including a Mass at St. Patrick’s Cathedral to be celebrated by Cardinal Timothy Dolan on the morning of May 26.

Vincent LeVien, director of external affairs for DeSales Media Group, the ministry that produces The Tablet, has been working for weeks with the NYPD and city agencies to make sure that the pilgrimage runs smoothly in the Big Apple.

“There are pilgrims walking to the National Eucharistic Congress from all corners of the country. But organizing a procession in New York City is a lot different than doing one in Omaha. There are a lot of moving parts — permits, traffic concerns — all kinds of things,” said LeVien, who is coordinating efforts for both the diocese and archdiocese.

The group’s visit to the archdiocese will also include a stop at the St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Shrine in Lower Manhattan. They will then make their way to the Brooklyn Bridge carrying the monstrance.

Bishop Brennan is expected to meet the pilgrims mid-span on the bridge and accept the monstrance on behalf of the Diocese of Brooklyn.

That handoff will mark the start of a two-day series of processions and celebrations that will include stops at Our Lady of Lebanon Cathedral, the Cathedral Basilica of St. James, and the Co-Cathedral of St. Joseph on May 26.

Father Joseph Gibino, vicar for evangelization and catechesis for the diocese, said the faithful can join the procession along the route. 

“As we make our way through Brooklyn, we’re going to be stopping at parishes along the way. And the invitation will be that if one group of parishioners wants to drop off at that point and another wants to start, that will happen as smoothly as possible,” he explained.

On May 27, the Seton Route pilgrims will take part in a procession starting at St. Charles Borromeo Church in Brooklyn Heights to Mother Cabrini Park in Carroll Gardens for a prayer service. 

There will be other processions that day as well, starting at Mother Cabrini Park and including stops at Sacred Hearts & St. Stephen in Carroll Gardens, Holy Family-St. Thomas Aquinas in Park Slope, St. Michael’s in Sunset Park, and Our Lady of Angels in Bay Ridge.

The idea, Father Gibino said, is for the faithful to feel like they are a part of the National Eucharistic Pilgrimage, even if it’s only for a short part of it.  “The excitement that this will generate will be something special,” he added.

The local portion of the pilgrims’ journey will end at the 69th Street Pier in Bay Ridge, where the Seton Route pilgrims will board a van to travel to the Diocese of Metuchen in New Jersey.

As Dongas prepares for the pilgrimage, she is putting the Blessed Sacrament at the center of everything. 

“I think the proximity I will have to Jesus in the Eucharist for two months has to change me. Praising Him and Walking with him, I expect the Lord will continue to transform my heart. I hope He transforms the hearts of others,” she said.


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