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Five Franciscan Friars of the Renewal Depart Pilgrimage Grateful

(CFRs from left to right: Brother Paul Joseph Jones, postulants Ryan Box, Joseph Dumais, and Jeremy Krygowski, and Father Michelangelo Best.)

WASHINGTON, DC, June 8 — For pilgrims on the Seton Route of the National Eucharistic Pilgrimage, Saturdays have become a day of transition as members of the Franciscan Friars of the Renewal (CFRs) who have journeyed with them normally for a week depart and new pilgrims arrive.


This is so that the maximal number of CFRs are able to share in the grace of the Pilgrimage and so that the Franciscans’ important apostolates to the poor are able to continue throughout the 65 days of the journey.  The same transitions are occurring on the Serra (western), Marian (northern) and Juan Diego (southern) Routes.


Without the upfront commitment of the CFRs to guarantee priestly accompaniment of the Blessed Sacrament and pilgrims along all routes, the National Eucharistic Pilgrimage likely would never had been able to happen.


Today saw the departure of five CFRs: Father Michelangelo Best, Brother Paul Joseph Jones, and three postulants who hope to become novices on July 22: Joseph Dumais, Ryan Box, and Jeremy Krygowski.


All five arrived on June 1 in the city of brotherly love and traveled on the Pilgrimage through the Archdiocese of Philadelphia, the Diocese of Harrisburg, the Archdiocese of Baltimore and are finishing with a Mass and procession in the Archdiocese of Washington.


For Father Michelangelo, the pilgrimage began one week after his May 25 priestly ordination at St. Patrick’s Cathedral in New York by Cardinal Timothy Dolan.


When asked what it was like to spend his eighth to fifteenth days of priestly life in an extraordinary Eucharistic pilgrimage, he said, “I think my overall reaction is one of gratitude. It's by God's providence that my ordination took place during this Eucharistic Pilgrimage and it's been an absolute joy to be able to celebrate and concelebrate Mass in all of these beautiful churches, cathedrals and basilicas and to carry our Lord in procession to his people. It’s been an absolute honor and a real grace and I'm extremely thankful.”


He said the highlights of his time on pilgrimage have been “just seeing the church come out in full force. It gives me hope to know that the church is very much alive and very much concerned about the Eucharist.”


He added, “Seeing the beauty of the processions and the amount of work that people put in behind the scenes was really moving. It was very obvious that days went into preparation for a few seconds or a few moments of our Lord passing by. For me, that was very moving.”


He said the biggest surprise of his Eucharistic octave was “how much I've enjoyed it and how much I fell in love with the team and with our Lord again in the Eucharist.”


Fr. Michelangelo was a big hit among both the pilgrims making the entire 65-day journey and also children who met the pilgrims in various location because of his capacity, like St. John Bosco, to do magic tricks. He said he taught himself to do magic when he was in Guatemala and didn’t speak Spanish at the beginning, that it was a way to interact with children and keep them excited in some of the CFR activities.


Another departing pilgrim is Brother Paul Joseph of Oak Grove Jones, someone to whom all pilgrims looked up during his time, owing partially to his 6 foot 7 inch height, which once came in handy holding an umbrella over the Blessed Sacrament when the monstrance was being carried by a priest who was himself quite tall.


He said the highlights of the week were “definitely the processions, seeing people pull out all the stops out of love for Jesus in the Eucharist. The beauty of that and of people's devotion and love for Jesus really inspired me.


“I came here definitely desiring to be a witness, but I've really been witnessed to, and my own faith in the Eucharist has certainly been deepened and renewed. I'm just incredibly grateful for that.”


Asked what impact he anticipates his eight days will have on his Franciscan vocation, he said with a smile, “I think we should just do more processions. It’s a beautiful way to bring the Church together to bring Jesus to places where he really wants to go.”


He said he’s very thankful for his community’s commitment to the Eucharistic Revival and the Eucharistic Pilgrimage.


“I'm incredibly grateful for it. I'm just very happy that [General Servant (superior)] Father John Anthony Boughton responded to desire and the movement of the Holy Spirit and that the brothers really came together.”


Postulant Joseph Dumais said he has been “overwhelmed at the mission of the Eucharistic Congress and the mission of the perpetual pilgrims. Last Sunday on Corpus Christi, we read in the Office of Readings from St. Thomas Aquinas that the essence of why Jesus wanted to institute the Eucharist was to manifest the vastness of God's love. And I think that's what I've seen in so many different places, from the mountains in Emmitsburg and in the streets of Philadelphia and Baltimore, I've been overwhelmed at how much Jesus has come to his people and then also how much people have been receptive to receiving the vastness of his love.”


This week, he said, “I was moved reflecting on our vocation as Franciscans, especially as mendicants called to be temples of the Holy Spirit and travel among and be with people. I think the perpetual pilgrims are living this in a radical way. To be able to witness that and be a part of it has been life-changing, as has seeing how thirsty the people are for Jesus, especially in the Eucharist. The desire of people and leaders in the Church that's been manifested in putting on all of this is something that moves me to lay down my life for the church.”


Postulant Jeremy Krygowski said the greatest highlight of his time on pilgrimage has been “the time with Jesus all day, every day. I have felt like the apostles, getting a taste of what it was like to be with Jesus as we just went around people who were bowing down, worshiping, seeing their king. I’ve also witnessed people's faith that the Eucharist is truly full presence of Jesus, the one who saved them, the one who healed them, the divine physician, with their hearts captivated by his presence. I’ve also been privileged to be with Father Landry and the Pilgrims as they just journey across the US.”


Looking ahead to becoming a novice on July 22 and how the pilgrimage has strengthened his Franciscan vocation, he said he has grown in faith that “my King is with me and that Jesus is my Savior. He is in my chapel, in the chapel in all of our friaries. He's with me at all times and I can always run to him and be with him in in the true presence.”


He added, “Even today, there was a beautiful moment of ministering to a homeless man. I saw his eyes open super wide as I shared with him that that was Jesus truly at the front of the procession. Being able to see his faith grow as I shared that with him convicted me anew of the true Presence.”


Postulant Ryan Thomas Box said the greatest blessing of the week for him has been “seeing the amount of Catholics that want to come to adore our Lord, being able to adore Jesus and love Him in prayer with the Church throughout the nation, and witnessing the openness of those outside of the faith to receive this central part of our faith.”


“In Baltimore, we interacted with a lot of impoverished people. As Franciscans, we just love the poor, and so being able to go out and talk to them with Jesus actually there and be able to point to him and say this is our Lord was really beautiful,” he said.


He also said he was grateful to be able “to spend such a large amount of time in the van with Jesus,” as we needed to drive some longer distances from diocese to diocese.


“It really strengthened my faith that the extraordinary reality of the Eucharist is always with us, even in ordinary moments of our lives. His presence is constant and should be adored with our whole being at every moment.”


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