National Eucharistic Pilgrimage will unlock the church’s ‘deepest core’

(OSV News) — Father Roger Landry may be the reason 24 young people and several priests are walking thousands of miles across the United States this summer with the Eucharist.

“I was wondering what might be able to spur a Eucharistic revival in some spectacular way,” said Father Landry, a chaplain at Columbia University in New York. “I had begun praying, and I thought a national Eucharistic pilgrimage would be an incredible idea.”

Inspiration for the pilgrimage

Father Landry said he proposed the idea at a meeting of Eucharistic preachers in April 2022. Bishop Andrew H. Cozzens of Crookston, Minnesota — a key leader in the U.S. bishops’ National Eucharistic Revival — told the priest he had a similar idea, but feared logistics would make it infeasible. Father Landry was undeterred. The priest continued to promote the idea among the Eucharistic preachers, and by the end of the meeting, other priests had expressed support and the Franciscan Friars of the Renewal had committed their priests to participating.

When Bishop Cozzens announced in November 2022 that a National Eucharistic Pilgrimage would precede the National Eucharistic Congress in July 2024, Father Landry jumped on board as a priest chaplain. Beginning May 18 on the eve of Pentecost, he will journey nearly 1,000 miles over 65 days from New Haven, Connecticut, to Indianapolis. Many of those miles will be on foot, with Father Landry holding a monstrance displaying the Eucharist.

The fact that a pilgrimage like this has never been attempted before is not lost on Father Landry, a priest of the Diocese of Fall River, Massachusetts. “It’s rare when we can say ‘never in the history of the church,’ but never in the history of the church has any country tried what the U.S. bishops have decided this time to do — a nationwide Eucharistic pilgrimage in a country the size of a continent,” he said. “I think every Catholic in the United States should feel super proud of what we are doing for God and to try to bring his glory.”

Father Roger Landry, chaplain at Columbia University, elevates the Eucharist during Mass at Sacred Heart of Jesus Church in New York City Oct. 11, 2022. (OSV News photo/Gregory A. Shemitz)

St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Route

Father Landry’s pilgrimage route is known as the St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Route, and it is one of four routes that comprise the pilgrimage. The other three routes — the St. Junipero Serra route, beginning in San Francisco; the Marian Route, beginning in Northern Minnesota; and the St. Juan Diego Route, beginning in southern Texas — launch the same weekend and converge with the Seton Route in Indianapolis ahead of the July 17-21 National Eucharistic Congress at Lucas Oil Stadium.

The routes form a cross on the map, “making essentially Eucharistic benediction over our entire country, from the Atlantic and Pacific, Canadian border and the Mexican border,” Father Landry said.

Father Landry, 54, is the only priest walking a full route on the National Eucharistic Pilgrimage, as the Franciscans, who will lead the other three routes, have planned a cycle of priests for different legs of the journey.

Accompanying Father Landry on the Seton Route will be six young adults known as “perpetual pilgrims,” a seminarian and four religious sisters from New Hampshire. Father Landry plans to chronicle their journey with a blog at setonpilgrimage.org.

Celebrating 25 years of priestly ministry

As he travels the route, Father Landry will mark the 25th anniversary of his priesthood on June 26 in Pickerington, Ohio, at St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Parish, which shares a patroness with his route.

“I’ll be having a 25th anniversary Mass in the middle of the Diocese of Columbus after, by that point, eight weeks of holding Jesus in my hand several hours a day as I ask him to bless this country,” he said.

Those 25 years have included several other pilgrimages for Father Landry, including multiple trips to the Holy Land, Rome and Christian sites in Europe. He has also participated in major Eucharistic processions, including ones that have drawn thousands in New York.

A packed calendar of local events

As pilgrims on the National Eucharistic Pilgrimage pass through towns and cities, they will participate in scheduled events such as Mass, adoration and talks that invite local Catholics to participate, even for a short time, in the pilgrimage. Many days include Eucharistic processions of varying lengths.

“What’s always been powerful for me in Eucharistic procession is that it helps people who might otherwise be a little timid to share their faith with others be capable of doing so,” Father Landry said. “They don’t have to say anything on a Eucharistic pilgrimage, but as we leave the church, we’re giving public witness that we actually believe that the One we’re carrying isn’t a thing, isn’t a piece of bread, but is the blessed fruit of Mary’s womb, the Savior of the World, the King of Kings — and that type of public witness changes us to be far more generous and confidant in the sharing of our Eucharistic faith.”

The National Eucharistic Pilgrimage includes churches and shrines associated with U.S. saints, who Father Landry called “signposts pointing us in the same direction — literally to the Eucharistic Lord, who helped make them holy and desires to accomplish that same goal in us.”

Maintaining ‘spiritual stamina’

While the pilgrims anticipate spending hours with the Eucharist daily in public events or as a small group walking with the monstrance, Father Landry said it is hard to know how the pilgrims will maintain “spiritual stamina” over what is expected to be an intense period of prayer over eight weeks. Some days will include more than 12 hours of Eucharistic adoration, he noted.

“All that I do know is that the Lord will give what I need in order to be able to keep loving him, but I think my prayer is going to be drastically simplified as we live what St. John Vianney, the patron saint of priests, used to always say was the summit of the contemplative life: ‘I look at him, and he looks at me,’” Father Landry said. “For me, that’s going to be 2 inches from my eyes every day for several hours as I’m carrying the monstrance. But for the Eucharistic pilgrims … this is going to be a much more concentrated time of prayer than they will have ever experienced up until now, or will likely ever experience again.”

While the pilgrimage routes lead to Indianapolis, “it’s not going to finish in Indy, it’s going to finish in heaven,” he said.

“The church is a pilgrim church,” he said. “For me to help signify what the church is at her deepest core, through the longest and greatest Eucharistic procession in the 2,000-year history of the church — I just can’t believe God’s goodness that I’m alive at this time with the honor to be able to participate even in a small way.”

This post National Eucharistic Pilgrimage will unlock the church’s ‘deepest core’ appeared on Our Sunday Visitor.

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