It was a pilgrimage to Rome that eventually led Will Peterson to incorporate Modern Catholic Pilgrim, a company that helps Catholics plan and participate in pilgrimages all over the world. In preparation for the Way of St. Joseph Saturday, May 1, feast of Joseph the Worker, he shared his story and the moving stories of several other pilgrims.
As a Notre Dame student, Peterson studied in Galway, Ireland. A 2013 pilgrimage brought him to Rome for the first triduum of Pope Francis’ pontificate. On Easter morning, he had a powerful encounter with the Holy Spirit. “It was like lightning shooting right down to my fingertips.” The more he reflected, the more convinced he became that the ancient tradition of pilgrimage offers a great deal to the modern Catholic, especially coupled with the charism of hospitality. Four years later, he spent four days walking 75 miles from Lexington, Kentucky, to Gethsemani Abbey, stopping overnight in two parishes and an interfaith homeless center. He and David Cable, a fellow University of Notre Dame graduate, co-founded Modern Catholic Pilgrim with the dual objective of deepening faith and building community.
A native of Atlanta, Murphy was a classmate of Peterson and Cable in the Notre Dame Class of 2014. After college, he became a Navy helicopter pilot. When he was stationed in San Diego, he and Peterson reconnected. The two of them and a third friend agreed to walk from Mission San Diego to Mission San Louis Rey, 50 miles in two days in a beautiful setting. Because Peterson had been exploring the spiritual meaning of pilgrimage, their journey went far beyond tourism. At the time, all three were considering vocations to the priesthood; it was a key time for deep conversation and prayer. The other two men will soon be married. Murphy is now a seminarian with the Congregation of Holy Cross.
For his first-year field work, Murphy ministered to young adults at Christ the King Parish, South Bend. He and a classmate assigned to St. Joseph Parish, South Bend, came up with the plan for a young adult pilgrimage between the two parishes. With the enthusiastic participation of Father Gilbrian Stoy, CSC, and Father Matt Fase, CSC, the walk came to include a Mass with Father Stoy’s homily being specific to pilgrimage. Trying to figure out how to follow up on that success and expand it to more participants, Peterson credits Murphy with the inspiration for the Way of St. Joseph. “Looking at a map of Catholic churches in Michiana, it was pretty obvious,” said Murphy.
Deacon Frederick and Lisa Everett
After an annual USCCB pro-life conference several years ago, the Everetts returned home by way of St. Joseph’s Oratory in Montreal. Since Lisa had recently suffered a miscarriage, they sought the intercession of St. Joseph and Brother Andre Bessette, CSC. Not long afterward, they conceived a son they named Joseph.
By the following year’s gathering, Joseph was a baby in arms. Although it’s a U.S. event, one of the speakers was unable to leave Canada, so the pro-life conference took place in Montreal. Naturally, Deacon Frederick and Lisa returned to the shrine to give thanks and consecrate their son to St. Joseph. Now a young adult in the Alliance for Catholic Education program at the University of Notre Dame, Joseph has developed his own devotion to St. Joseph and Brother Andre, whom he chose as his confirmation saint.
When Burke was studying in Vienna, she got to participate in a meaningful trip to Poland. On one memorable day, “burned into my mind,” she was very grateful that they began by praying at the shrine of the Black Madonna in Czestochowa. After that, they visited Auschwitz/Birkenau. “I felt very heavy,” Burke admitted, “facing the reality of so much evil,” but she was also moved by seeing St. Maximilian Kolbe’s cell and remembering his generous self-sacrifice. “I could almost hear the songs he was singing to Our Lady.” She found herself clinging to the bars of the cell and weeping in the face of so much evil — and so much holiness.
Patrick Hess of Knights of Columbus Santa Maria Council No. 553 saw a notice about the Way of St. Joseph in the diocesan young adult newsletter and asked right away how the Knights could assist. They helped pilgrims cross streets and provided water along the way and lunch outdoors at St. Joseph Parish, South Bend. “Our membership and their families have been very enthusiastic to participate as volunteers or pilgrims,” said Hess. “This pilgrimage is a wonderful opportunity to witness to the importance of St. Joseph as an example of humility and virtue so needed in the world today. Our council is blessed to be part of it.”
Hess made his own pilgrimage at the end of the year he spent in Rome when he was in Notre Dame’s architecture program. Growing up in St. Pius X Parish in Granger, he became interested in Giuseppe Sarto, who became Pope Pius X. Sarto was born into a poor family in Riese, northern Italy, where he walked 5 miles each way to attend school in the town of Castelfranco Veneto. To avoid getting his shoes dirty on the way, he took them off and carried them; a statue outside St. Pius X School shows the future saint as a barefoot lad.
For his personal pilgrimage, Hess took a train from Rome to Castelfranco Veneto and retraced Sarto’s route, visiting the cathedral where he was ordained, the house where he was born and his childhood parish. “It was a pretty incredible experience, and a great last hurrah before heading back home.”
Pilgrimages are often made to the Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe in Mexico City. Kristah Quijada, administrative assistant in the diocesan Secretariat for Evangelization and Discipleship, made such a pilgrimage with her family. It was especially meaningful because the journey was undertaken to fulfill a “manda,” or “promise,” her father made to Our Lady when he was very sick. Since the pilgrims included her younger siblings and her elderly grandmother, they did not do much walking. However, when they reached the courtyard of the basilica, her father and grandmother dropped to their knees to complete the procession. Quijada said, “It was a beautiful experience seeing people from all over the country — and probably all over the world — making their way to the basilica to honor Our Lady of Guadalupe.”
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