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Article: Pledge of future glory: Eucharistic pilgrimage moves through Johnstown

This article, by Russ Reilly, appeared in The Tribune Democrat on June 11, 2024

Caption: The Most Rev. Mark Bartchak carries the Eucharist in a golden vessel Monday, June 10, 2024 from St. John Gaulbert Cathedral down Locust Street to Central Park, with scores of people following behind him as part of a months-long pilgrimage to Indianapolis for the Catholic Church's Eucharistic Congress.

JOHNSTOWN, Pa. – The Eucharist is a sacred mystery to Catholics and, as the Most Rev. Mark Bartchak, bishop of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Altoona-Johnstown said Monday in prayer, it is “the source and summit of worship and life of Christians,” and “a pledge of future glory.”

Catholics from across the United States are contemplating the Eucharist along a months-long pilgrimage to Indianapolis for the Catholic Church’s National Eucharistic Congress.

Bartchak carried the Eucharist in a golden vessel Monday from St. John Gualbert Cathedral on Clinton Street down Locust Street to Central Park with scores of people following behind him.

At the park’s pavillion, he raised the Eucharist to the sky. Although the sky was mostly cloudy, light illuminated the sun-shaped vessel that displayed a piece of bread inside which Catholics receive at Mass and believe is – as Bartchak said – “the body, blood, soul and divinity” of Jesus, who is “really, truly and substantially present.”

The procession Monday in Johnstown was part of the pilgrimage scheduled to conclude in July with arrival in Indianapolis for the Church’s National Eucharistic Congress. There are pilgrims taking four routes to Indianapolis from different corners of the United States. The group that passed through Johnstown Monday began in Connecticut.

Caption: The Most Rev. Mark Bartchak raises the Eucharist inside a golden vessel called a monstrance at Central Park in Johnstown Monday June 10, 2024.

Zoe Dongas, of New York, quit her job to make the pilgrimage.

“This is important to know deeper,” she said.

She said she wanted to more fully orient her life toward God present in the Eucharist.

“What does it mean for God to lower himself under the appearances of bread and wine and allow me to consume him?” she asked.

Marina Frattaroli, of New York, also spoke of her experience to the crowd gathered in downtown Johnstown.

She said she was generally raised Christian, but after applying the question, “Did God really say that?” to moral and religious questions, she converted to Catholicism more than a year ago.

She said she heard of the Eucharist and didn’t know what it meant at first.

“Even though it was a foreign concept for me, I asked the same question I always did – ‘Did God really say “This is my body? This is my blood?” ’ ” she said. “What would my life look like if I used my intelligence to contemplate the sacred mysteries of the Eucharist? What would your life look like, what would Pennsylvania look like if you shared that with people?”

Catholics from across the region participated in Johnstown leg of the pilgrimage Monday. Confession was offered at St. John Gualbert Cathedral, 117 Clinton St., downtown Johnstown followed by exposition of the Blessed Sacrament at the cathedral, and then the 4 p.m. procession from St. John Gualbert Cathedral to Central Park in downtown Johnstown.

The day’s events concluded with Mass at the Cathedral. 


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