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Pilgrims Bid Grateful Adieu to Five Franciscan Friars of the Renewal

The CFRs of the Pilgrimage's second week — from left to right, Christian Apodaca, Brian Ambrustmacher, Fr. Pierre Toussaint Guiteau, Gabriel Thorp, and Br. Robert Holly.

NEWTOWN, PA, June 1 — The perpetual pilgrims of the Seton Route of the National Eucharistic Pilgrimage expressed grateful thanks to five Franciscan Friars of the Renewal (CFRs) who finished up a week's journey with them on Saturday.

Father Pierre Toussaint Guiteau and Brother Robert Holly as well as postulants Christian Gabriel Thorp, Brian Ambrustmacher, and Christian Apodoca, joined the pilgrims last Saturday in the Bronx and journeyed with those on the Seton Route though Bronx, Washington Heights, Manhattan, Brooklyn, and the Dioceses of Metuchen, Trenton and three days in Philadelphia.

Before they departed, they were able to share of their thoughts on the week.

Father Pierre Toussaint said that his greatest fruit was "just seeing the way in which Jesus was received in different churches, different places and with different customers. Two days ago while we were processing, a woman stopped and got out of her car to genuflect: seeing such reverence for the Blessed Sacrament, which I thought was somewhat lost, was so edifying. People just revered Jesus, they stopped and welcomed him in different places in different ways."

He celebrated his sixth priestly anniversary during his days with us. Asked about the impact his days on pilgrimage will likely have on his priestly ministry, he said it would be "incalculable. The things I've experienced walking with Jesus and holding him, as well as seeing people look at Jesus the way they have, are incalculable, I will have to take a long time just to go through the treasure trove of the grace I have received once this is over."

During the pilgrimage several people came up to him to say that they regularly listen to him on the Poco a Poco Podcast with the Franciscan Friars of the Renewal. He said he's sure he will cover the pilgrimage on future episodes, because the other co-hosts — Fr. Innocent, Fr. Angelus and Fr. Mark-Mary — are on other legs of the National Eucharistic pilgrimage.

Brother Robert Holly said that among his highlights was the night the pilgrims arrived at the St. Mary's Cathedral in Trenton.

"There was a really beautiful group at the Cathedral, waiting for our arrival waiting with Jesus. There were about 1,000 people at Mass night, but a large number came out of the Church to welcome Jesus to their diocese. It was incredibly moving and inspiring for me to see the love and the devotion that the faithful of Trenton showed toward Jesus, to know that there are places where people that love Jesus in that way."

Brother Robert said that he's already sensing an impact on his Franciscan vocation.

"I think the pilgrimage is going to impact my life in a lot of ways, especially through deeper reliance and devotion to the Eucharist: seeking the Eucharist more, allowing the Eucharist to be the fount of everything more. I have seen how the Eucharist is just so powerful and transformational in the lives of others. The presence of Jesus walking through the streets has transformed people. And so I hope not only to turn to him in my own life, but to emphasize bringing others to him."

Postulant Gabriel Thorpe, a native of Minnesota who, with the other two postulants on the Seton Route and three others, hopes to receive the CFR habit as a novice on July 22, said that his biggest highlight from the pilgrimage was "seeing how Jesus has been received."

He detailed how, as the pilgrimage carried Jesus to downtown Manhattan and then crossed over the Brooklyn Bridge into Brooklyn, he was moved by "all the firemen who were there waiting for us who started cheering and applauding. It reminded me of Jesus's entry into Jerusalem when people just celebrated him. How long has he been waiting for that to happen?"

Among the challenges he faced was the variability in the schedule from day to day.

"The friary has a really consistent schedule of prayer and food and we know what's going to happen. It's difficult sometimes to hand everything over to Jesus, and let him take care of things that I have no control over."

He said that without question it will impact his growth as a Franciscan.

"I think that it will deepen as time goes on. But just seeing how so many people love Jesus is just very inspiring as I'm trying to give my life to him. I have asked myself a lot during these days, "How can I love him more? How can I be more faithful to him? How can I be more devoted to him? There have been so many witnesses on this pilgrimage and in the people we have met who have shown such an authentic love for Jesus. It sometimes even seems they seem to love him more than I do. And it just makes me want to love Him more."

Brian Ambrustmacher, from Michigan, said that his week on pilgrimage was full of "a lot of beautiful moments, like Cardinal Dolan doing benediction right in front of the Statue of Liberty, walking across the Brooklyn Bridge with a huge trail of people behind us going into a crowd of people waiting for us, and seeing how excited people were about Jesus' coming. I won't forget the night we entered into Trenton and the way the people received Jesus, just chanting his name."

He said that there were a few challenges for him because of the variability in the day to day schedule, which led him "to rely on Jesus more and ask really beg for the grace each morning."

He found himself praying, "Jesus, I'm tired. I can't do this on my own. You have to provide for me today."

Other challenges, he said, involved walking for hours under the sun, but he said he sought to "turn them into offerings for the people I'm walking by, who don't even know that it's him."

He said he learned a lot from the people he met along the way that he anticipates will help him as a soon-to-be Franciscan Friar of the Renewal.

"I'm really moved by people's faith. Remembering people's reception, excitement and love for Jesus" has help him, he said, "not to allow my current moment, momentary feelings and emotions to get in the way" of living in Jesus' presence.

Postulant Christian Apodaca, from California, said about his week on the road with Jesus that "everything is a highlight to me."

"One of the biggest has been the sheer amount of people who have experienced beauty and been changed by it. Many have asked questions like, 'What is going on? What is the Eucharist?' And even some Catholics I've talked to it didn't know. I've been able to teach them a simple prayer like, 'Jesus come to me. Jesus help me,' to look directly at the Eucharist and speak meaning it, because Jesus desires a relationship with us.

"I also had a beautiful experience of myself being poor and needy on this pilgrimage, helping me to see how much I actually need the Lord to come into my life. Tuesday, we had a 17-mile day. I had awakened on the rough side of the bed and didn't feel great because we had a 15- mile day two days before and I was kind of in a poor mood. I said, 'Lord, you got to do a lot today. And he did without fail.'"

As he approaches becoming a novice on July 22, receiving the habit and a new name, he said that the experience of fhe pilgrimage will stick with him. The biggest lesson is that "I'm not alone. There's a body of Christ that helps one another. I have experienced beauty, then goodness and truth. These beautiful processions with so many beautiful souls are just inspiring. I can't forget it."


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