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Day 45 — Siempre Adelante: Following in the Zealous Eucharistic Footsteps of Saint Junipero Serra

XENIA, OHIO, July 1 — The pilgrims on the eastern route of the National Eucharistic Pilgrimage are very proud of their patroness, St. Elizabeth Ann Seton.


On July 1, however, the liturgical memorial of St. Junipero Serra, patron of the western route, they spent the day focused on striving to imitate his peripatetic example, conscious that he traveled over 5,000 miles throughout Mexico and what is now California building churches and missions centered on the Christ in the Holy Eucharist.


The pilgrims’ day began in the Eucharistic chapel of St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Parish in North Pickerington, Ohio within the Diocese of Columbus, where Seton Chaplain Father Roger Landry celebrated Mass for the pilgrims and Seton Chaplain Father Joseph Michael Fino, CFR, gave a homily based on the Gospel reading of Jesus’ inviting people to follow him, as well as the example of St. Junipero Serra’s walking such great distances to make disciples.


He made the point that when we walk, we normally are grounded in reality and come into contact with the world through what we see, hear, smell and touch. Many today, he said, do not have that contact: as their faces are buried in screens and their ears pipe music. He urged pilgrims, as they prepared for a lengthy journey, to be alert to the many ways God seeks to communicate himself to us though the created reality, as St. Junipero did and as St. Francis of Assisi did before him.  


After Mass and thanksgiving, the Pilgrims traveled adoring the Lord in their specially outfitted support van from the Diocese of Columbus into the Archdiocese of Cincinnati.

They started at the Cedarville Community Park and processed 10 miles with two dozen pilgrims to the Green County Expo Center. The journey was along a beautiful bike path that made the journey quite contemplative, even if they didn’t meet the same amount of people.

Along the way they met three young men at a park bench whom they invited to join, which they did. One of them, a 27 year-old Protestant who spent much of his childhood in foster care and who was now living in a shelter, was so moved by the experience that he ended up throwing all the pot he was carrying into the trash at the Expo Center, spent time talking to the pilgrims, knelt outside the van containing the monstrance with the Eucharist for a lengthy period of time, and then continued with the pilgrims on the journey.


He is another story of how the Eucharistic Revival is bringing people to conversion through the intercession of St. Elizabeth Ann Seton, who herself owed her conversion to seeing Jesus pass by in a Eucharistic procession. Later at dinner, pilgrims assisted him to begin the process to get into more permanent housing and a relationship where his incipient faith can be nourished.


From the Green County Expo Center, there was a solemn procession with more than 500 pilgrims to St. Brigid Church in Xenia. Upon arrival there was a solemn holy hour during which Damascus Worship played praise and worship music and Father Landry preached a homily on St. Junipero Serra and how each of us is called to live out a Eucharistic Mission.

Father Landry described how St. Junipero left a great teaching position on Mallorca to become a missionary in Mexico and eventually in what is now California, where he walked to establish nine of the 21 missions in California, all of which were centered on the chapel containing the Eucharist.

Landry mentioned that Pope Francis, when he visited the Pontifical North American College in Rome a few months before canonizing St. Junipero in Washington, DC, in 2015, asked whether we have the same faith in and love for the Eucharistic Lord and others to do what St. Junipero has done, seeking to bring him to others. We don’t have to cross the Atlantic and the Gulf of Mexico, but we do have to get out of our comfort zones.

Serra’s most famous saying, siempre adelante, “always forward,” is a motto, he said, for every disciple called to be an apostle. Just as Serra continuously sought to found another mission to bring more people to Christ, each of us is meant never to rest on our laurels and seek to bring at least one person at a time to Jesus. Always forward.


After the holy hour, there began a period of all night adoration in the Church, which will conclude before a 7:30 am Mass the following morning.


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