May 14, 2024 // Diocese

Perpetual Pilgrim Seeks to Share ‘Love for the Eucharist’

As a graduate of Juan Diego Academy in his home state of Texas, University of Notre Dame sophomore Joshua Velasquez finds it particularly meaningful that he has been chosen to walk the Juan Diego Route as a Perpetual Pilgrim in this spring and summer’s National Eucharistic Pilgrimage. It was during high school that he first grew in an intellectual understanding of his faith, leading him to “fall in love with Truth,” he said, adding that he valued having Jesus present through the Eucharist on the campus of Juan Diego Academy.

Photos provided by Joshua Valasquez
Joshua Velasquez, a student at the University of Notre Dame, was chosen to be a Perpetual Pilgrim on the Juan Diego Route of the National Eucharistic Pilgrimage, which will travel from Brownsville, Texas, to Indianapolis.

“Especially when things got hard,” he told Today’s Catholic, “it was great to be able to come to Jesus and lay it down there.” 

His high school emphasized the humility of its namesake, and that left a lasting impression on Velasquez.

“Juan Diego was one of the most humble saints,” he said, noting that as a pilgrim on the Juan Diego Route, “It will be a really humbling thing to facilitate the encounter between Christ and those who will walk with us.” 

Velasquez is one of 24 young adults who will be traveling one of four routes to the National Eucharistic Congress, which will take place in Indianapolis from July 17-21. As Perpetual Pilgrims, they are giving up two months of their summer to make the pilgrimage, accompanying our Eucharistic Lord through the streets and sharing life with people along the way. 

Joshua Velasquez, second from right, poses with Bishop Andrew Cozzens of Crookston, Minnesota, along with other Perpetual Pilgrims.

Each day of the pilgrimage will begin with the celebration of Mass, followed by a short, solemn procession that is open to the public. Following that, the Perpetual Pilgrims, their priest chaplains, seminarians, and those who have registered to walk with them for a segment of their journey as part of the “Eucharistic caravan” will accompany the monstrance on a targeted route to their next destination. The pilgrims will reside with a host family for the night before repeating the process the following morning (except for Saturdays, which are reserved for doing service work). 

The Juan Diego Route is the Southern route of the pilgrimage. It will begin in Joshua’s home diocese of Brownsville, Texas, and travel through Louisiana, Alabama, Georgia, Tennessee, and Kentucky, before arriving in Indiana. 

Velasquez initially didn’t think he would be able to participate in the National Eucharistic Pilgrimage. Recalling when the pilgrimage was first announced, he said: “I heard about the pilgrimage through the news. … It seemed like a really cool thing to do, but that was near the beginning of my freshman year at college, so it seemed like an impossible or very distant thing.” 

After the head of the Notre Dame Folk Choir reminded him and the rest of the choir about the opportunity, he ran into Will Peterson, Founder and President of Modern Catholic Pilgrim, on campus and struck up a friendship. Peterson, whose company is helping to organize the Eucharistic Pilgrimage, stayed in contact with Velasquez, who later worked for Peterson at Modern Catholic Pilgrim during the summer following his freshman year.

“Working on the pilgrimage and being in meetings with the route coordinators, we were able to experience and share our love for the Eucharist, for Christ,” Velasquez said. “Slowly, the pilgrimage became more of a draw – not only possible but something to discern if God was calling me to.”

He applied to be a Perpetual Pilgrim last fall and got the good news that he had been chosen this spring. 

According to Peterson, creating the roles of Perpetual Pilgrims was an opportunity to engage Catholic young adults with the mission and theme of the National Eucharistic Revival and the upcoming congress. After advertising went out, more than 100 young adults submitted applications. 40 applicants participated in first-round interviews, and six were chosen for each route after a second round of interviews, having displayed spiritual maturity, leadership skills, and adaptability. 

Velasquez has never been on a conventional pilgrimage, but his family, who enjoys visiting holy sites, decided to make a small pilgrimage of their own in their hometown several years ago, and that left a lasting impression on him. 

“It was during a time when we couldn’t go to any typical pilgrimage destinations that exist in Europe,” Velasquez recalled. “We walked from our home parish to the Basilica of Our Lady of San Juan del Valle – a local shrine which will be a terminal on the Brownsville leg of our route this summer. On a practical level, walking on the streets that you typically drive on is weird; but on a spiritual level, it reinforces that we’re not at a destination.”

“Physical pilgrimages help remind us of the state of how we actually exist on this earth,” Velasquez said. “We’re pilgrim people – our home isn’t anywhere on this earth. We’re always journeying toward heaven. The experience of a pilgrimage ingrains that.”

Peterson echoed the impact of making a spiritual pilgrimage, quoting Thomas Merton, who said: “The geographical pilgrimage is the symbolic acting out of an inner journey. The inner journey is the interpolation of the meanings and signs of the outer pilgrimage. One can have one without the other. It is best to have both.” 

In particular, a Eucharistic pilgrimage has a special significance. Peterson notes that we can think of a Eucharistic pilgrimage as “an encounter with the Risen Christ, like the disciples had on the road to Emmaus. We see the effect of them walking with and breaking bread with Christ: Their hearts are set on fire, and they immediately go run back to their communities to spread the faith. That’s our hope.”

After attending a kickoff retreat in the Twin Cities focusing on the pillars of the revival, Perpetual Pilgrims have been participating in weekly formation nights. During these evenings, guest speakers present on topics such as street evangelization, Eucharistic apologetics, prayer life, how to walk great distances without injury, blister care, and hospitality (a topic that is applicable to both receiving it and extending it to others who join them along the way).

Peterson led the formation during the kickoff and believes this pilgrimage is an important component of the National Eucharistic Revival. “The congress is for committed Catholics,” he said. “But the pilgrimage allows the revival to have an evangelistic component as people are confronted with what is a pretty amazing sight: people walking with the person they believe to be their Lord. So, if we only have a minute with someone who’s wondering what’s going on, it’s important to be able to speak well in that minute. We also have business cards to leave with people who are curious about the Eucharist. It’s a tremendous opportunity for evangelization around the Eucharist. They might think, ‘If they’re willing to do this for the Eucharist, I should believe, too.’”

As a Perpetual Pilgrim, Velasquez looks forward to bringing our Eucharistic Lord into places He may not otherwise be seen.

“Christ in the Eucharist is the revelation of God to mankind,” Velasquez said. “Our Eucharistic Lord comes every day in thousands of places at the altar through the hands of the priest. By doing this pilgrimage, walking the streets, I really hope that this encounter that is often confined to churches and chapels enters the streets and enters into the everyday experiences of people walking with us and of those we pass by in their homes or places of work. I want to bring Christ to places where He wouldn’t otherwise be seen, and I hope that those encounters with Christ on the street will spark something in people and ignite a revival in their hearts that brings them to the faith.”

Velasquez hopes the pilgrimage will spark something in his own heart as well. Having fallen in love with Truth through his intellect, Velasquez’s love from the mind is developing into a love from the heart, as he has been continuing to encounter the Lord through Mass and Eucharistic adoration. This pilgrimage seems like the right next step to help further his faith, and for that he’s grateful.

“God is very good at timing things,” he said. 

He hopes the pilgrimage will help him “to develop a relationship of trust with Our Lord and to be really open to however He wants to use me as one of his many instruments. I really want the love of God … to be set on fire in a way that others can see the depths of how much God loves them as well. To grow in that relationship that’s been growing for quite a while, and also be a sign to that relationship such that others are drawn to Him as well.”

He asks for prayers that people have a very deep encounter in their hearts with Christ by seeing Him walking the streets.

“That solidarity of prayer all over the country – and the world, even – is what’s really going to make this pilgrimage effective. Pray for us as we help facilitate that encounter, and pray for the encounter to be really felt wherever Our Lord goes – and we follow.”

This is an updated map showing the four routes of the National Eucharistic Pilgrimage to the National Eucharistic Congress in 2024. Participants in the National Eucharistic Congress and related National Eucharistic Pilgrimage will have opportunities to receive plenary indulgences, Archbishop Timothy P. Broglio, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, announced April 9, 2024. (OSV News illustration/courtesy National Eucharistic Congress)

Pilgrimage Schedule

The National Eucharistic Pilgrimage’s Marian Route will be coming through the Diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend this summer. While details are being solidified and will be announced on the National Eucharistic Pilgrimage website once set, a preliminary list of visits to diocesan parishes includes:

Friday, July 5: St. Thérèse, Little Flower, South Bend; Basilica of the Sacred Heart, Notre Dame

Saturday, July 6: Basilica of the Sacred Heart, Notre Dame

Sunday, July 7: Basilica of the Sacred Heart, Notre Dame; St. Mary of the Annunciation, Bristol; St. Joseph, Lagrange; St. Anthony of Padua, Angola

Monday, July 8: St. Anthony of Padua, Angola; St. Michael, Waterloo; Immaculate Conception, Auburn; St. Vincent de Paul, Fort Wayne

Tuesday, July 9: St. Vincent de Paul, Fort Wayne; St. Francis Xavier, Pierceton; Sacred Heart, Warsaw; St. Michael, Plymouth

Wednesday, July 10: St. Michael, Plymouth

For full information, visit the National Eucharistic Pilgrimage website at Our diocese will be part of the Marian Route.

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