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Pilgrims Say Bye and Thanks to Father Justin Alarcón, CFR

NORTH PICKERINGTON, OHIO, June 29 — Saturdays on the Seton Route of the National Eucharistic Pilgrimage are always bittersweet transition days as Pilgrims say thanks and goodbye to one or more Franciscan Friars of the Renewal and welcome one or more others.


On June 29, the pilgrims bid a grateful adieu to Father Justin Alarcón, CFR, and prepared to welcome Father Joseph Michael, CFR.


Brother Lazarus Vina, CFR, is staying one more week on the pilgrimage.


Before his departure, the blog was able to speak to Father Justin about the highlights of his week traveling with pilgrims through the Dioceses of Steubenville, Wheeling-Charleston and Columbus.


Father Justin made his first vows in 2011 as a Franciscan Friar of the Renewal and was ordained a priest in 2017. He has served in Yonkers, helped to found a new friary in Nicaragua, served for three years after priestly ordination in Honduras, then as local vicar in Newburgh, New York, and for the last two years has been the local servant in Comayagua, Honduras.


In Camoyagua, the colonial capital of Central America, the friars run a free medical clinic where they see about 1,500 patients for primary care and have seven medical missions do about 600 low risk surgeries each year for the poorest people in the country. He also helps to run an orphanage for 80 children, adolescents and vulnerable adults, is a spiritual director at the local major seminary and helps out at the U.S. military’s Joint Task Force Bravo, where he is able to offer priestly services in English.


Fr. Justin said that his week with the pilgrims was filled with “so many beautiful experiences.” He said that the visit to the Mother Angeline McCoy Manor nursing home on Friday was especially moving for him because of Seton Chaplain Father Roger Landry’s homily on Zechariah and Anna, which, he said, “got me thinking about my 98 year-old grandmother” as well as seeing a 93 year-old Dominican priest resident who had a “moving encounter with the Blessed Sacrament that got me thinking about an old priest who had a stroke when I was at Douglaston (NY) in minor seminary, and he could only say a few words as a result of his stroke: fellowship, gratitude, and courage. He would just have his hands open at the Mass when he was sort of concelebrating with the elderly priests at the retirement residence for the Diocese of Brooklyn. That attitude of gratitude and desire for fellowship” that he saw in the Dominican priest and in the retired priest in Brooklyn, he said, is a “beautiful” witness to priestly life.


He said he was also delighted by the fellowship he had with the pilgrims and with Father Landry, especially as he celebrated his 25th priestly anniversary, which he called “a joy, encouragement and challenge to keep on pressing forward and to be ever be more faithful in priestly zeal.


He said there were some challenges, such as a pilgrimage on Friday in which he sensed that “my blood sugar kind of took a dip. I was little shaky when I was putting Jesus in the tabernacle!”


He arrived excited to come on pilgrimage.


“I had heard only positive experiences from the brothers,” he stated. “And I'm going to continue to witness to the other brothers who are on their on their way to integrate for a short leg of the journey to expect good things testifying to the joy of the Lord and seeing people being drawn to Christ as he's lifted up and processes across the country. Seeing the momentum gathering, I have a lot of hope for the revival of the Eucharistic devotion.”


He was proud of his community and grateful to his fellow friars for their leadership in the National Eucharistic Pilgrimage. Without the commitment of the Franciscan Friars of the Renewal to provide clergy to the four routes of the Pilgrimage, it would never have gotten off the ground.


When he and others invited to participate, “A lot of us were very excited. I wanted to make that a priority to clear my schedule because I saw the potential. It’s beautiful to see the fulfillment of that potential, which some of our brothers had the vision to foresee. As a community, we are going to continue to pray about how we can keep the momentum going.”


He believes his eight days on the road with Jesus has strengthened him in his vocation as a friar and priest.


“Part of our charism is to invite people” to deeper Eucharistic devotion and faith, he stated. “The reality that the church is a pilgrim people of God, moving through this world, to our Father's house. It’s a pilgrimage of faith, hope and charity. I've gotten to witness all those dimensions in the lives of the perpetual pilgrims and of the faithful who have come.”


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