The Missionaries of the Eucharist are (from left) Nick Lensing, Caroline Savoie, Danielle Simone, Erin Dunne, Molly Willis, and Meghan Sabo.
Walking the Walk — A Very Long Walk
They put their best feet forward for the Lord!
By Felix Carroll (Jun 24, 2010)
Through hikers. Here in western Massachusetts, home of the National Shrine of The Divine Mercy, they are a frequent sight in the summertime. Bearing backpacks, looking drawn but determined, they emerge from the woods briefly, then disappear into the mulish ridgelines of the Appalachian Trail.
But through walkers? The Shrine this week was blessed with this rare breed of determined bipeds. Looking joyful and bearing a processional crucifix, they climbed Eden Hill on Monday for an overnight of respite along their summer-long journey from Lewiston, Maine to Washington, D.C.
The six students — all of them 21-years old — wear blue emblazoned with their nomenclature: "Missionaries of the Eucharist."
As their name implies, through devotion to our Eucharistic Lord, the missionaries seek to become living tabernacles of Christ.
"We are young Catholics, happy and on fire with their faith," said Caroline Savoie of Louisiana.
The missionaries received a warm welcome from the Marian Fathers of the Immaculate Conception, the administrators of the National Shrine. The Marians fed them — victuals and spirituality — and put them up in the John Paul II Guest House for the evening.
"They are truly an inspiration," said Fr. Kazimierz Chwalek, MIC, the Marians' director of evangelization and development. "They are young and full of life, and they reflect the beauty of the faith — that of love of God and neighbor."
Three weeks into their annual journey, the missionaries said the Shrine visit — including going to confession, celebrating Mass, and praying the Chaplet of The Divine Mercy and the Rosary — was well-timed.
"It's really a treat and a privilege to come to the Shrine," said Danielle Simone of New Jersey. "We've been traveling, offering ourselves to the Lord, pouring ourselves out, and now here we are being filled up again with the Lord's mercy. We feel like we are being 'reset,' spiritually and mentally."
The missionaries have a connection with the Marians through Br. Richard Mary Dolan, MIC, a seminarian in Washington, D.C., whose unabashed and contagious devotion to Mary Immaculate has inspired a network of college students to draw into a deeper commitment to Christ and His Church through evangelization and other works of mercy.
So why a summer-long walk?
These are the reasons: Penance, self-denial, sacrifice, and prayer — all in order to live fully in Christ, and to give a gift of self to a world in need of Christ's mercy.
Unlike the through hikers who disengage from the modern world for the solitude of the woods, the missionaries decidedly engage with the world. They process in plain sight by the side of the road clutching a cross and a Vatican flag. They speak with perfect strangers. They hand out rosaries and Divine Mercy prayercards.
Certainly, they get a lot of double-takes. On rare occasions, people are unkind. They've been spit upon.
"People did the same thing to Christ," said Danielle, "so it's a real honor and privilege to walk in His name."
In most cases, the reception they receive is warm. They make it a point to pray and to counsel in front of abortion clinics. They give talks at parishes. Somehow, someway, without fail, they manage to attend daily Mass.
"By receiving Christ in the Eucharist, we are given the grace to be the love of Christ not only to those in our community but also to those we meet in the streets," said Molly.
Indeed, they make it a point to speak with everyone they meet, particularly the homeless and downtrodden.
"When you enter conversations with people, first off they're very curious of what we're doing, but also they are very reserved and don't want to give anything of themselves away," said Danielle. "But as soon as we ask them if we can pray for them, all barriers break down. It's incredible to watch the graces flow through prayer. A lot of people are so hungry for meaning and hope and mercy."
In addition to Caroline, and Danielle, the missionaries include Nick Lensing of Rhode Island, Meghan Sabo of California, Erin Dunne of Illinois, and Molly Willis of Illinois.
Including every small town in their path, the missionaries plan to visit Boston, Providence, New York City, Philadelphia, and Baltimore before arriving at their destination in Washington, D.C. — which they hope to reach by Aug. 20.
The missionaries, who began their journey on June 7, walk in three-mile shifts. They have two vans to carry supplies. From the vans to the shirts on their backs and to the food they eat — all come through donations along the way.
Before leaving the National Shrine on Tuesday, the missionaries gathered at the Mother of Mercy Outdoor Shrine to chant the Divine Office, as they do each morning.
Then, they packed up.
Then, grounded in prayer, they walked away.
Visit the missionaries' blog at: blog.TheMoes.us.