The National Eucharistic Congress is inviting young people to step out in faith – literally – by walking hundreds of miles in a major national pilgrimage.
Organizers are inviting young adults ages 19 to 29 to apply as participants in the National Eucharistic Pilgrimage, which will take place May 17 to July 21, 2024. The “Perpetual Pilgrims” will travel along four different routes throughout the country – a combined distance of 6,500 miles – to the 10th National Eucharistic Congress, set to take place July 21-24, 2024, in Indianapolis.
The (St. Junipero) Serra Route will depart from San Francisco; the (St. Elizabeth Ann) Seton Route from New Haven, Connecticut; the (St.) Juan Diego Route from Brownsville, Texas; and the Marian Route from Bemidji, Minnesota.
The experience of “coming from the four cardinal directions” to the congress promises to be “really wonderful,” Will Peterson, Founder and President of Modern Catholic Pilgrim and Director of the National Eucharistic Pilgrimage, told OSV News.
The heavenly patrons of each route will provide inspiration, he added.
“Serra is buried not too far away (from San Francisco) in Carmel, California,” he said. “And we’re recognizing those coming from the Southern border, with St. Juan Diego representing the deep roots of the Hispanic Catholic Church. St. Elizabeth Ann Seton is just a wonderful Eucharistic saint who did such great work in the (nation’s) Eastern seaboard.
“And it’s wonderful that on the northern route, we’ll get to go to an apparition site of the Blessed Virgin Mary,” he added, referencing the National Shrine of Our Lady of Champion in New Franken, Wisconsin, where Mary appeared in 1859 to a Belgian immigrant named Adele Brise. The shrine commemorates the first and only approved Marian apparition in the United States.
Mary figures prominently in the pilgrimage, said Peterson, noting “Our Lady of Guadalupe is the patroness of the entire National Eucharistic Revival” and that it “seemed fitting to have the northern route dedicated to (her).”
Accompanied by priest chaplains, the pilgrims will cover 10-15 miles per day, passing through several major U.S. cities and stopping at a number of holy sites, while attending daily Mass and participating in Eucharistic processions. Parishes along the routes will welcome the pilgrims, providing meals, fellowship, and Holy Hours. Pilgrims will be housed by parishes, religious orders, schools, shrines, retreat centers, and host families.
Peterson admitted to OSV News that while the 65-day commitment isn’t exactly “perpetual,” participants will be “giving of themselves for two months, (which) is a long period of time, to be prayerfully journeying with the Lord.”
Applicants must be baptized, actively practicing Catholics in good physical condition, capable of walking long distances, and committed to upholding Catholic teaching during their time as pilgrims –especially since they will take on pastoral ministry roles and managing logistics along the routes. The National Eucharistic Congress will provide housing, meals, and a weekly stipend for basic expenses, with pilgrims helping to raise funds prior to their journey.
Full details are available on the National Eucharistic Pilgrimage website at eucharisticpilgrimage.org. The deadline to apply is November 28, with final selections to be announced in January of 2024. Pilgrims will enter a period of formation from February to May with weekly virtual meetings and a retreat to be held from February 16-18, 2024.
That preparation will enable them to “steward that public experience of the pilgrimage,” said Peterson. “We want to make sure that they’re in a good place spiritually, physically, mentally. … This is something that we invite all Catholic young adults to consider as a way to deepen their own spiritual lives.”
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