May 21, 2024 // National

Preparing to Follow Our Eucharistic Lord: Meet Danielle Schmitz

From July 5-10, the Marian Route of the National Eucharistic Pilgrimage will be making stops at parishes across the Diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend. Throughout the pilgrimage, which will begin in Minnesota and finish at the National Eucharistic Congress in Indianapolis, two Perpetual Pilgrims – Danielle Schmitz, a student at The Catholic University of America, and Mason Bailey, a seminarian for the Diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend, will be writing for Today’s Catholic about their experiences on this once-in-a-lifetime pilgrimage.

At the calling of St. Matthew, Our Lord says two simple words that radically and completely changed the trajectory of the apostle’s life: “Follow me.” At these words, St. Matthew leaves everything behind to walk with Jesus.

When I was presented the opportunity to apply to be a Perpetual Pilgrim on the National Eucharistic Pilgrimage, Jesus brought me to this Scripture passage, and I felt Him speak those same words into my heart. So, like St. Matthew, I left everything behind, including all my plans for the next two months, and I committed to following Him.

Provided by Danielle Schmitz
Danielle Schmitz sings as she leads worship during Eucharistic adoration.

My name is Danielle Schmitz, and for the next 60 days, I will be walking with our Eucharistic Lord as a Perpetual Pilgrim on the Marian Route of the National Eucharistic Pilgrimage. I’m originally from Santa Clara, California, but I currently reside in Washington, D.C., where I am a senior at The Catholic University of America studying theology and philosophy.

Like St. Matthew, I wasn’t always willing to leave everything and follow Christ. Three years ago, I was a freshman in college, and despite being from a devout Catholic family, I had come to completely reject the faith I had known my entire life – not because of any disagreement with the Church and her teachings but because I felt that I had no reason to stay. Or, I felt that I could be nominally Catholic, not go to Mass, and everything would be fine.

Despite being in this mindset, I found myself at Catholic University, attending daily Mass on a Tuesday, with no clue why I was there. I hadn’t gone to Mass in weeks, and I sat there questioning what I was doing. It was during this Mass that I went up to receive the Eucharist, and in that moment, I truly encountered the love of God for the first time in my life. He called me His daughter, and He invited me to repent and give my life to Him with the promise of more love and adventure than I could ever imagine. At that moment, there was no choice but to say yes. I repented, I gave my life fully to Jesus, and I surrendered all the plans I had for my life to Him so that His will may be done instead of mine.

Since that moment my freshman year, Jesus has changed everything about my life. He has invited me into adventure after adventure with Him, but this summer is the journey I am most excited about. When I was first invited to apply for the National Eucharistic Pilgrimage, I was attracted to the idea of simply walking with Jesus every day for such a long period of time – to live a life of perpetual adoration. I have a deep love of walking pilgrimages and hiking, and so that alone was enough to spark my interest. After I was offered a spot on the Marian Route and began to learn more about what exactly my job would look like, I also became excited to get to share our Eucharistic Lord with every person who joins us on pilgrimage and pray that each of them would radically encounter the Real Presence of Christ like I have.

Throughout these past several months, I have been preparing to begin pilgrimage through weekly formation with my fellow Perpetual Pilgrims, spending time with Jesus, especially in adoration, and a whole lot of walking. In the midst of this preparation, I have also continued all the things I love to do: leading worship, cooking, photography, traveling, serving in Catholic University’s campus ministry, and celebrating the freedom of living in Jesus Christ. I pray that this summer Our Lord will push me out of my comfort zone and teach me how to better carry my cross, providing comfort to Jesus’ Sacred Heart and to Calvary. I also hope that through these long days of pilgrimage I will better learn to “pray without ceasing,” as St. Paul instructs us, and to find rest in Our Lord like John the Beloved despite the physical demands.

As I walk this summer, I will be sharing this column with Mason Bailey, a seminarian for the Diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend, who is a fellow pilgrim on the Marian Route. Each week, we will be sharing updates as we walk and testimony of how Our Lord is working through those who encounter Him throughout the summer. Know of my prayers for all of you, and please pray for me as I enter these last days of preparation for the pilgrimage!

Ad Jesum Per Mariam,


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