NEP Day 1: An Opportunity to Walk With the Lord

This article was posted on: April 29, 2024

As part of this Marian Route, the National Eucharistic Pilgrimage will arrive in the Diocese of La Crosse on Friday, June 7

I lost my dad a few months ago to some health complications, and although I thought I knew a lot about this special person in my life, I learned a lot more about him as we made our way through that final goodbye. As the long line of people greeted my family at the funeral, I was struck by their comments. Of course, I always knew my dad was an amazing person, and I could personally vouch for how hard he worked. But in my grief, I recognized that God was also using this time to show us that, by taking advantage of simple opportunities in our lives, we can live a life of faith and be the example of Him that He is asking of us.

People drove for hours to attend my dad’s funeral and say a final goodbye. As the line of mourners streamed by, each person shared a personal story of how my dad had affected their life, how he was always there to help, how he quietly left his imprint and how he was a man of faith. As I listened to these stories, I realized how my dad used every opportunity to share his faith by connecting Jesus with his people through his actions. He didn’t lead rosaries or attend Bible studies, but he did believe in something greater than himself. He knew that by listening, lending a helping hand and using teachable moments, he was setting a positive example through his actions. He always put others before himself and lived a life of service, just as Jesus teaches us to do.

My dad was humble, compassionate and selfless. He shone like a light in the darkness, a beacon of hope to many. He blazed his path by taking the opportunities that Jesus presented to him and making use of the opportunities that came his way, just as Jesus had asked him to do.

Each day, we are presented with opportunities. We don’t have to search for them because they are already there. The question is, do we accept the opportunities we are given and use them to share our faith? In the coming months, we have amazing opportunities to do exactly that within our own diocese.

The Marian Route

On May 18, the National Eucharistic Pilgrimage (NEP) commences with four separate processions that will travel across the United States. Each of the four routes will be led by a group of 12 perpetual pilgrims, including two seminarians and priest chaplains, who will lead the procession across nearly 70 archdioceses and dioceses. This group of perpetual pilgrims will travel from their start points across the nation to Indianapolis. 

The Northern route (the “Marian Route”) will start at Lake Itasca, Minn. and descend through Wisconsin and Illinois before joining the other three routes as they converge in Indianapolis, Ind., on July 16 to kick off the National Eucharistic Congress. 

As part of this Marian Route, the National Eucharistic Pilgrimage will arrive in the Diocese of La Crosse on Friday, June 7. The procession with Jesus across our 19 counties will span five full days and provide a range of opportunities within the diocese. The pilgrimage team is scheduled to arrive in the morning and will lead a day full of encounters with Christ, including a eucharistic procession, national speakers, Mass, adoration and an opportunity to join people from all over the diocese and beyond at the La Crosse Center to come to know or renew a relationship with Jesus. As the procession makes its way through the Diocese of La Crosse, pilgrims from our diocese are invited to join the perpetual pilgrims on the journey from La Crosse to Wausau. It is important for us to extend invitations to others and walk alongside them as they join us for these events.

From July 17-21, thousands of people will come together for the first National Eucharistic Congress held in 83 years. The pilgrimage to Indianapolis will include several stops along the way, each providing many opportunities for individuals to journey with Christ.

We are all aware of the statistics indicating a decline in Mass attendance, but I recently came across information that highlights the disturbing impact of losing our connection to the church on emotional health. A survey conducted in 2021 among U.S. high school students found that a staggering 56.5% of teenagers felt persistently sad or hopeless. It is critical to recognize the important role that a connection to Jesus plays in supporting those who feel alone and struggling with emotional distress.

Our diocese’s hosting of the National Eucharistic Pilgrimage provides us with an excellent opportunity to invite others to attend various events and connect with each other. Extending a simple invitation can make a difference in someone’s life, especially in moments of sadness. We should never forget that no matter what life throws our way, turning to Christ can give us the answers we seek. As Catholics, it’s our responsibility to show the possibility of hope and lead each other to the answer. That’s exactly why we’ve named the eucharistic rally for the Diocese of La Crosse “the ANSWER.”

The eucharistic rally “the ANSWER” will be held on June 7. Although it will feature nationally renowned speakers and musicians, Mass, adoration and thousands of attendees, it marks just the beginning of a week full of encounters with Christ that will allow individuals to respond to the gift of the Eucharist in their own way.

Every one of us can walk with Christ in a public eucharistic procession that travels through La Crosse, Sparta, Wisconsin Rapids, Marshfield, Abbotsford and Wausau. Whether joining the pilgrimage for a few blocks, a few miles, or a few days, we all have a powerful and local opportunity to walk with the Lord. 

The Warmth of the Community and the Beauty of the Eucharist

Saturday, Monday and Tuesday will incorporate a time to pray, to seek the intercession of Sister Thea Bowman, Blessed Brother James Miller and Servant of God Father Joseph Walijewski for special intentions. These heroes of faith each have a special story connecting them to the Diocese of La Crosse and we look to them for guidance in our lives as they are considered for sainthood for the Christ-centered lives they led.

Join in Mass or adoration each day along the route to pray for and with others. Whether it’s spending a few minutes in prayer in one of the adoration chapels or enjoying some social time with the pilgrimage team to learn about their journey, it’s an opportunity to align our hearts with God’s heart for others. Each day, there will be an experience in liturgy or prayer with a special focus on our Hispanic and Hmong communities, our deacons, the rural life communities, from youth to adults, those from different faith communities and those looking for a connection. Everyone has an opportunity to come together and connect Jesus with His people.

Jesus provides each of us with opportunities to deepen our experience with Him, and hosting and participating in the National Eucharistic Pilgrimage in our diocese is one such opportunity. It is an amazing chance to connect with others, demonstrate our faith and invite others to do the same. Just think of the impact and lasting impression that the warmth of community, the beauty of the Eucharist and sharing the Good News could have on someone’s life.

Story by Debbie Brannon, Executive Assistant for the Office of the Bishop
Published in the May/June 2024 issue of Catholic Life Magazine

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