More than 1,200 take to the streets of nation’s capital for National Eucharistic Pilgrimage

WASHINGTON (OSV News) — More than 1,200 faithful took to the streets of the nation’s capital June 8 to celebrate the arrival of the National Eucharistic Pilgrimage in the Archdiocese of Washington with prayers, songs and a procession.

Praying the luminous mysteries of the rosary, hearing the Word of God proclaimed and following behind a monstrance holding Jesus Christ in the Most Blessed Sacrament, the faithful processed through the streets of Northeast Washington.

“I’ve been looking forward to being a part of this since the first time I heard about it,” said participant Mark Forrest. He said he wanted to be a part of the procession because “if others see what I believe, maybe it will inspire them to believe.”

Celebrating faith in the nation’s capital

Washington was one of many stops along the National Eucharistic Pilgrimage’s eastern Seton Route — named for St. Elizabeth Ann Seton. It’s one of four national pilgrimages scheduled to converge in Indianapolis July 16 for the National Eucharistic Congress, which takes place July 17-21. The other three — the Marian, Serra and Juan Diego routes – are heading to Indianapolis from the north, west and south, respectively.

Tony and Alison Rizzuto of Burke, Va., accompanied by their daughter Charlotte, 10, their son Leo, 6, and their baby daughter Penelope, 1, pose June 9, 2024, for a photo near the statue of St. Elizabeth Ann Seton, the first American-born saint, at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington. The day before they participated in the National Eucharistic Pilgrimage procession through the Brookland neighborhood of Washington. The Eastern route of the pilgrimage is named in that saint’s honor. (OSV News photo/Mark Zimmermann, Catholic Standard)

Six “perpetual pilgrims” and a priest are making the entire journey with the Eucharist in a monstrance. Catholics have been invited to join the pilgrims along the way and participate in events associated with stops along the pilgrimage route.

Natalie Garza, a theology teacher at a Catholic high school in a suburb of Kansas City, Kansas, who is one of the Seton Route’s perpetual pilgrims, said she is traveling across the country with the Eucharist “to show that God is still with us.”

“He promised, ‘I will be with you to the end of the age,’” Garza said. “And that is what this pilgrimage shows.”

Mass and procession

Prior to the procession, Washington Auxiliary Bishop Evelio Menjivar celebrated Mass at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception. About 36 priests were concelebrants, including Cardinal Donald W. Wuerl, retired archbishop of Washington.

More than 2,000 people attended the Mass. More than half of them later took part in the Eucharistic procession, which had as its theme “Walk with Jesus: To Jesus Through Mary.”

“It is truly edifying and beautiful to see this church so full,” said Father Michael J.K. Fuller, general secretary of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, who was the homilist at the Mass. He said those on the pilgrimage were “literally on a journey with Christ.”

“A pilgrimage is an outward journey meant to trigger an inner journey — a journey of the heart … where we encounter the Lord,” Father Fuller said. “We are people on the way to a deeper encounter with the Lord.”

Marian feast day

Noting that the Mass and procession were being held on the day that the Catholic Church celebrates the feast of the Immaculate Heart of Mary, Father Fuller encouraged the pilgrims to “imitate the heart of Mary and take in the real presence of the Lord.”

“Let our hearts exult in the Lord and rejoice in his love,” Father Fuller said.

Also noting that the procession was being held on a Marian feast day, Msgr. Walter Rossi, rector of the basilica, greeted participants and prayed that “Our Lady accompany our steps, so that as we ‘Walk with Jesus: To Jesus through Mary,’ our will hearts will always beat as one with the heart of her Divine Son.”

Prayers for peace

During the Mass, prayers were offered for civic and church leaders and for an end to violence in Ukraine, Haiti and the Holy Land.

At the end of Mass, prior to the start of the procession, the Most Blessed Sacrament was exposed on the Upper Church’s main altar where the faithful could offer their adoration in silent prayer.

A pilgrimage through Washington

After departing the basilica, pilgrims — led by Bishop Menjivar, men and women religious and the perpetual pilgrims — processed along a route through the Brookland neighborhood of Northeast Washington. It included stops at the Angels Unaware statue on the campus of The Catholic University of America, the Dominican House of Studies and USCCB headquarters, concluding at the St. John Paul II National Shrine.

Each stop included a Scripture reading and reflection and time for adoration. Prayers and reflections were offered in English and Spanish.

Some pilgrims made the procession in wheelchairs. Some were pulled in wagons or pushed in baby carriages. All raised their voices in prayer to publicly profess their belief that the Eucharist is indeed the body, blood, soul and divinity of Jesus Christ.

Occasionally along the route, residents stood in doorways and on apartment balconies or came out to the sidewalk to watch as the Eucharist processed by. Many times onlookers genuflected or bowed or blessed themselves. Several waved and blew kisses.

More than an hour before the start of the early morning Mass and procession, the faithful began arriving at the National Shrine. Among them were Arayely Guzman, Ana Reyes and Mayte Naredo — classmates at Virginia Tech University — who traveled from Roanoke, Virginia, to participate in the pilgrimage. It was their first-ever visit to the nation’s capital.

“We’re lucky that our families taught us the faith,” said Guzman, speaking for the group. “We wanted to participate in this pilgrimage in thanksgiving for our faith and to pray for the success of our studies.”

The procession concluded at the St. John Paul II National Shrine with Benediction followed by a catechesis.

This post More than 1,200 take to the streets of nation’s capital for National Eucharistic Pilgrimage appeared on Our Sunday Visitor.

Your custom text © Copyright 2024. All rights reserved.