National Eucharistic Congress opens ‘perpetual pilgrim’ application process

The Eucharistic procession ended in the Vatican’s Lourdes Grotto. Credit: Daniel Ibáñez/CNA

The National Eucharistic Congress on Monday opened its application form for young people to apply to become “perpetual pilgrims” during the National Eucharistic Pilgrimage, which kicks off during summer 2024.

The ambitious two-month pilgrimage will consist of four cross-country Eucharistic processions — a combined distance of 6,500 miles — converging in Indianapolis on July 16, 2024, at the National Eucharistic Congress, which is expected to attract thousands.

The general public is invited to sign up to join for small sections at different points of the pilgrimage; however, a group of four dozen full-time “perpetual” pilgrims will commit to making the entire journey, accompanied by priest chaplains for weeklong segments. Pilgrims will walk 10-15 miles each day, with major solemn processions on Sundays and Mass and smaller processions at parishes during the week.

Catholics interested in serving as perpetual pilgrims must be aged 19-29, in good physical condition, capable of walking long distances, and must agree to uphold the teachings of the Catholic Church for the duration of the pilgrimage, according to the announcement.

The pilgrimage will begin during the feast of Pentecost, May 17–19, 2024, from four origin points: San Francisco in the west; Bemidji, Minnesota, from the north; New Haven, Connecticut, from the east; and Brownsville, Texas, from the south. The National Eucharistic Pilgrimage’s official website details each of the four routes along with the cities and dates.

The pilgrimage is being organized by the National Eucharistic Revival campaign in conjunction with Modern Catholic Pilgrim, a Catholic nonprofit dedicated to deepening the faith across the country through pilgrimages. 

Will Peterson, founder and president of Modern Catholic Pilgrim, told CNA on Monday that they already have a list of about 70 people who have expressed interest in becoming perpetual pilgrims and hope to solicit a total of “a couple hundred, if not 1,000” applications. 

Peterson said many, but not all, applicants will likely be college students and that the Congress plans to work closely with campus ministers at Catholic universities throughout the country to make sure students who might be interested receive the invite to apply. Kicking off the pilgrimage Pentecost weekend means many colleges will already be on summer break, he noted.

“Realistically, those who have two months to give over the summer period will oftentimes be the ones in school,” Peterson said. 

“But we’ve also had Catholic school teachers reach out with interest; and nowadays we have a generation that makes a lot more transitions in their work, so there might be a 25-year-old who feels called to leave their job and take a few months to pray on what the next step is.”

Peterson said they want pilgrims to be involved in helping to financially support the Congress but not in an “arduous” way. While there is no cost associated with becoming a perpetual pilgrim, and the Congress says it will provide housing and meals as well as a weekly stipend for basic expenses, perpetual pilgrims will be asked to take part in fundraising before the pilgrimage. 

Each diocese that the pilgrimages will traverse has appointed, through the local ordinary, a diocesan representative to the pilgrimage, Peterson said. The Congress is working with these representatives to identify parishes, monasteries, Catholic colleges, and other sites that make sense as places for pilgrims to stop, as well as identifying host families and other hosts to house small groups of perpetual pilgrims. 

The pilgrimage is being organized in conjunction with a three-year-long Eucharistic revival campaign by the U.S. Catholic bishops, which aims to inspire, educate, and unite the faithful in a more intimate relationship with Jesus in the Eucharist. 

The deadline to submit an application to become a perpetual pilgrim is Nov. 28. Interview and further screenings will follow, with final selection taking place in January 2024, the announcement said.

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