Photo: Mitchell Kruszyna
The Missionaries are (front row) Annabelle O'Hara, Martha Jordan, and Shana Smith; and (back row) Ed Abdallah, Shawn Seger, Ludwig Kern, and Jordan Sonnett. They are joined by the Marian "welcome wagon" — Shrine Rector Kenneth Dos Santos, MIC, and Fr. Robert Vennetti, MIC.
Look Who Just Walked In
By Andy Leeco (Jul 20, 2011)
Seven college students are walking some 650 miles from Maine to New York City this summer, and they are spreading faith and hope along the way. This week, they stopped in at the National Shrine of The Divine Mercy, in Stockbridge, Mass.
"I think for me, one of the most important things has been looking at the world in a different light. Walking along the roads with the cars driving by and realizing how radical the Christian message is," says Jordan Sonnett of western Pennsylvania to be part of the walk this year. "I'm realizing the need for hope in our culture and how that's really lacking. So I think that when we're walking on the side of the road, I'm often thinking about how our message is being received by the cars that see us and how that kind of clashes with what maybe the ordinary view of the world and how important it is for the Christian revitalization of society."
The group, Missionaries of the Eucharist, is a non-profit organization that focuses on evangelizing on the teachings of John Paul II. As their name implies, through devotion to our Eucharistic Lord, the missionaries seek to become living tabernacles of Christ. This year's theme is the teaching of the Theology of the Body and the Catholic family.
"It is really, really great to see young people taking their faith seriously. I'm very moved by them and their witness," says the Very Rev. Fr. Kazimierz Chwalek, MIC, the Marians provincial superior of the United States and Argentina. "Secondly, if you look at their faces, you see a lot of love. They have a very loving attitude toward the Lord and faith. So, I'm very much inspired by them. They could have done something else during the summer and they chose to walk on foot on this long pilgrimage. And a pilgrimage usually means both a personal renewal of their own faith but also helping each other to grow in faith. It's not just the external witness, but also an internal witness for each other."
"Our 'charism' in a sense is like the Annunciation visitation charism," says Martha Jordan of New Jersey. "We receive the Eucharist every morning as Our Lady did, and then we go and seek out people to give witness to our faith. And hopefully that will make Christ leap within them."
The idea of this walk stems from another walk about seven years ago called the Crusaders for Christ, which was a Catholic, pro-life walk specifically focused on the abortion side of the pro-life movement. "But then I guess they saw the need for pro-life in so many other areas especially with issues of homosexuality and contraception and all these different issues," Martha says. "It has become a much more general pro-life walk."
Martha and another walker, Ludwig Kern of Philadelphia, are taking on this walk for a second time. It will take about six weeks to complete the walk. The group takes Sundays off.
"We spend a lot of our times praying," says Ludwig. "But I've had a lot of contact with people who are Catholic and see what we are doing and are very encouraged about it. To see young people and to realize the Church is very much alive in us is really giving them an encouragement — what they can do to live out their faith."
The other five members are walking for the first time.
"For me I think it's been kind of seeing what it would be like to live in a monastic community as I discern where God is calling me because we live a monastic schedule," says Annabelle O'Hara of Rockville Md. "We pray the divine offices, we pray morning, evening, and night prayer. We chant, we have Mass every day, we try to make a holy hour as often as we can, we pray the Divine Mercy Chaplet, and it's really beautiful. I've never experienced such a deep and profound way to live a religious life. So this is really like a taste of what religious life might be. I have also enjoyed meeting different kinds of people as you walk. Learning the different ways that people live their lives. It's really fascinating to compare them to your own."
The group has two support vehicles that carry their food and luggage and usually have three members walking at a time.
"We have been doing between 20-25 miles a day collectively and individually, between 10-15 in a day," Martha says. "It's like a leapfrog. We have about three people walking and then the rest of us will take the two support vehicles and drive them three miles. So we do like three miles shift per hour. And then once those three people get to the two cars, three more will get out and just keep going."
"At each shift, we pray the Rosary," says Annabelle. "At 3 o'clock, we pray the Divine Mercy Chaplet. This is a way to sanctify our day."
"They have two support vehicles, but their supplies are very limited," Fr. Kaz says. "So sometimes they have to stop by and wash their clothing."
"We try to travel from parish to parish or shrine, but actually it's been hard this summer because there has been such a priest shortage in Maine and a little in New Hampshire so a lot of the parishes that we stay at have been closed," Martha said. "So we end up staying with families. But in the same way it's beautiful, you just see the domestic church. It's nice. You get an experience being with both groups."
They will try to hit some cities as they make their way through the northeast. They started in Lewiston, Maine. They made their way to Albany, N.Y., and were headed to Manchester, N.H., when they stopped by the National Shrine of The Divine Mercy on Eden Hill in Stockbridge, Mass. From Manchester, they'll go to Boston and then they'll come back through the Springfield, Mass., area and then to Stamford, Conn., and then New York City.
"They came to the Shrine late last night," Fr. Kaz said on Tuesday. "They were praying outside because the Shrine was closed. I had just come back from Washington when I saw them. I invited them inside to pray. They were very eager. They spent at least an hour there. They were there praying late into the night. They are just a beautiful witness."
Ludwig says prayer is the essential part of the mission.
"We pray a lot while we're walking, and we ask that you pray for us on our walk," Ludwig said.