During Lent, Christians around the world remember the last steps of Christ in a particular way, meditating on His walk and its meaning. One group within the Diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend is remembering that trip with a virtual trip of its own. During Lent this year, those who wish to participate are logging their miles and working together to cover enough steps to collectively reach the legendary trek’s location, completing the steps necessary to go from northeast Indiana all the way to Jerusalem.
With a band of 25 participants, Laurie Hund-Schieber leads the Walking to the Cross program at St. Thomas the Apostle Parish, Elkhart. As the program head, Hund-Schieber keeps track of the miles logged and reported by participants and sends weekly encouragement and prayers. She also tries to find pictures of landmarks they might encounter along the way as the mileage moves them closer to the destination. “I think,” she said, “it offers the parish an opportunity to virtually walk together toward a common goal for Lent, and … feel inspired by the Scripture passages and opportunities for reflection. As we walk with Christ, we pray that we may become healthier in body and spirit with each step.” For those who choose an alternate form of physical activity, Hund-Schieber converts the time spent in active participation to mileage.
“Laurie does an amazing job of organizing and promoting,” said Father Jason Freiburger, Pastor of St. Thomas the Apostle. “It is easy to support because she provides scriptural motivation and highlights churches along the way.”
Based on the book “Walking to the Cross: Daily Devotions for Lent” by Butch Odom, the parish has been logging miles based on liturgical season for about four years. Bound for Bethlehem during Advent, a group of 17 covered 3,854,083 steps, or about 1,624 miles, she said. Elkhart to Calvary is 7,550 miles, but “3,600 miles of that is crossing the Atlantic Ocean, so sometimes we need to take a ship across the water and a plane across the desert to have enough steps left to reach our destination by the end date.”
With nine half-marathons already under her walking shoes, Hund-Schieber herself participates each time such a program is offered. “I … set a goal to walk at least 10,000 steps each day. I also listen to Christian podcasts while walking and try to be mindful of the many inspiring messages I receive on my walking journey,” she said.
A clinical educator for Beacon Health’s physician’s offices since 2018, the nurse of 38 years enjoys her empty-nest time with husband Phil, as well as visiting her four children and three grandchildren along with a host of other activities from gardening to museum visits.
As program lead, though, she sees application of her nursing philosophy take shape in the parish setting. “Ministering to the physical, mental and spiritual care of people is the foundation of my nursing philosophy,” she said. While she might refer participants to health care resources or act as a voice of encouragement, Hund-Schieber said she refrains from giving medical advice.
“Holistic care is addressing all aspects of a person’s wellbeing,” she said. “In order to meet physical needs, we need to take into account mental wellness and acknowledge that spirituality impacts healing and wellness. Care of the mind, body and soul is whole care that recognizes our humanity as integrated and connected.”
Father Freiburger hopes for a similar positive outcome. “I hope at the completion of the program, we will be able to gather together in person to discuss how this program impacted us both spiritually and physically, and I look forward to seeing how the relationships among the parishioners grow as they interact with each other.”
He said he is also participating in the program to motivate himself to stay active “and also as a way to connect more personally with the journey that our other parishioners are on.”
Starting at the core, Hund-Schieber knows the physical being of an individual is just the surface. “The soul/spirituality of a person provides the foundation, strength, and encouragement to attain … health goals … and to achieve the best version of themselves.”
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