April 9, 2024 // Diocese

Diocese Prepares for Annual Way of St. Joseph Pilgrimage

Not many places have two churches named after the same saint within five miles of each other, separated by a river and enclosed in a county also named after the saint. But St. Joseph County does.

The third annual Way of St. Joseph Pilgrimage, honoring the area’s local patron, will take place on the morning of Saturday, April 27. The five-mile, family-friendly pilgrimage begins at St. Joseph Parish in Mishawaka and winds along the St. Joseph River to finish at St. Joseph Parish in South Bend.

This pilgrimage was the vision of Will Peterson, Founder and President of Modern Catholic Pilgrim, a nonprofit whose goal for the past seven years has been to promote the practice of pilgrimage and make it more feasible for the average Catholic.

Molly Gettinger

“There are only a select number of Catholics who can fly to Rome and the Holy Land,” Peterson said, adding that “we should all participate in pilgrimages in some way.”

As Peterson told Today’s Catholic, Modern Catholic Pilgrim partners with a variety of local organizations, from parishes to schools to religious orders to families, “to get people the opportunity to participate in a walked pilgrimage in their own community.”

The Way of St. Joseph is just such a local pilgrimage. In 2019, Will Peterson and his team came up with the pilgrimage to honor the saint who has so many local attractions named after him throughout the area. As it turned out, they pitched the idea a week before Pope Francis announced the Year of St. Joseph, which began in 2020 on the feast of the Immaculate Conception, December 8, and ran through the same feast day in 2021. Peterson remembers another member of the pilgrimage planning team saying, “Now we have to do this.”

The pilgrimage has several groups involved, from the participation of members of the Congregation of the Holy Cross and the University of Notre Dame to the sponsorship of the Knights of Columbus and the Diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend’s Marriage and Family Life Ministry.

Molly Gettinger
St. Joseph, Mishawaka

Also involved are the pastors of the parishes between which the pilgrimage is held. Father Chris Lapp, Pastor of St. Joseph Parish in Mishawaka, is celebrating the opening Mass and Eucharistic adoration before the pilgrimage begins. Mass will begin at 7 a.m., with adoration following from 7:30 until the pilgrimage begins at 9 a.m. Father Lapp called the Way of St. Joseph “a great event for the local community.”

“The patron of both parishes, as well as the river they walk along, and within a county named for him, too, provides a strong presence as the pilgrims walk and pray,” Father Lapp said. “I’m especially drawn to St. Joseph’s contemplative demeanor, which the pilgrims are invited into as they allow superficial conversations to give way to robust silence and prayer.”

On the topic of preparation, the pilgrimage website (diocesefwsb.org/joseph-pilgrimage) encourages pilgrims to talk as a family about St. Joseph and to bring written intentions to offer. The website also welcomes pilgrims to carry something along the way, such as a holy card, that helps them feel connected to the saint.

There is a lot of emphasis on the accessible nature of the pilgrimage. There are two access points along the way for pilgrims who can’t walk the entire five miles so they can join for part of the pilgrimage. Peterson is participating with his wife and young toddler, whom he said will walk part of the way and be in a stroller for most of the pilgrimage. No one should feel guilty about not doing the whole thing. “Distance isn’t what makes it a pilgrimage,” Peterson said.

The Way of St. Joseph will end at St. Joseph Parish in South Bend at noon with a prayer service. Afterwards, there will be music and low-cost lunch available at the parking lot and playground of the church’s school.

With this being the third year of the annual pilgrimage, Peterson said most of the practical details are in place. A new feature this year is the involvement of the Notre Dame Women’s Choir, which will lead hymns at Howard Park, the last stop before the end of the pilgrimage.

File Photo
St. Joseph, South Bend

Christian Dennis has participated in the Way of St. Joseph once before and hopes to again this year. The pilgrimage is particularly special for him as St. Joseph is his patron saint. Dennis told Today’s Catholic that the pilgrimage reminds him of all the routes St. Joseph walked with the Holy Family during his lifetime – from Egypt to Bethlehem to Jerusalem.

“It is good to take time and walk with him for a while as we make our life’s pilgrimage to the New Jerusalem,” Dennis said. “He is certainly walking with us.”

Peterson said the only need they have is more pilgrims. “Join for however much you can,” Peterson said. “We want you to come.”

For information or to register, visit diocesefwsb.org/joseph-pilgrimage.

* * *

The best news. Delivered to your inbox.

Subscribe to our mailing list today.