Kansas bishop to walk 19 miles in pilgrimage for peace 

bishop vincke Photo of Bishop Gerald Vincke, bishop of the Diocese of Salina (Kansas). | Credit: Courtesy of the Diocese of Salina

It’s supposed to be 31 degrees and mostly cloudy in northern Kansas when Bishop Gerald Vincke begins a 19-mile pilgrimage on foot tomorrow morning. 

Bishop Vincke, 59, who leads the Diocese of Salina, is planning to celebrate an 8 a.m. Mass at St. Mary’s Church in Glasco and then walk to St. John the Baptist in Beloit, accompanied by an unknown number of fellow pilgrims for at least part of it. 

“The Holy Father wants us to pray for peace, and that’s what we’re going to be doing during the whole pilgrimage, praying for peace in the world, in our country, and in our families — and in our hearts, too,” Vincke told CNA. 

The bishop plans to celebrate Mass on Sunday at St. John the Baptist, marking the end not only of the pilgrimage but also of a multiyear restoration of the church building. 

Wrought by fire 

The seed of the pilgrimage and restoration Mass on Sunday is a fire on Sunday, June 27, 2021, started by kids playing around with candles that destroyed one area of the 1902 church building and caused smoke damage throughout.

The congregation began meeting for Mass at a former Dollar General store. Meanwhile, the pastor and other parish leaders tried to figure out what to do with the parish’s 120-year-old limestone building that had sustained damage not only from the fire but also from years of patchwork repairs. 

The roof needed fixing, which turned out to be more extensive than originally thought. The stained glass needed fixing — and it turned out it was close to falling out of the windows. 

“The fire made us stop and say, ‘OK, are we going to Band-Aid again? Or are going to step up and do this right?” said parishioner Janet Hesting. “And we did it right.” 

A $3.5 million campaign raised money not just to fix the church but to restore it — even to the point of painting blue the walls that were white-washed during a 1970s renovation. 

In addition to the physical restoration, parishioners are also preparing later this year for what they are calling a spiritual restoration — upping the current 72-hours-a-week Eucharistic adoration to perpetual adoration, 24 hours a day, seven days a week. 

“It’s pretty interesting how something that felt so devastating at the time, how it really brought the parish together,” Hesting told CNA. 

Dude Parish 

St. John’s also embarked on a separate fundraising campaign through the online platform iGiveCatholic to close an operating budget gap in the parish and, especially, the parish’s kindergarten-through-grade-12 school. 

Alan Holdren, 42, a relatively new parishioner who now teaches at the school, put together a series of exploits inspired by the YouTube channel Dude Perfect. 

Each exploit was tied to hitting a fundraising milestone. 

“That was a way of engaging with it and getting some excitement about it, whether it raised money or not,” Holdren told CNA. “It was just a campaign to make people feel part of the church even more.” 

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Holdren is a former CNA correspondent in Rome, a former producer for EWTN (which now owns CNA), and the founding editor of the EWTN show “Vaticano.” So he knows his way around cameras and editing. 

He made multi-angle videos of each exploit — including a one-on-one basketball game between the two priests of the parish in full cassocks. 

Another exploit: The pastor, Father Jarrett Konrade, climbed the steps of the school’s fire escape two at a time to launch left-handed basketball throws to a hoop 76.9 feet away before an audience of students. 

It took a while. 

“I guarantee you Dude Perfect does not do its shots live because it takes a lot of attempts,” Konrade, 45, told CNA. “We were blessed to have the 85th shot go in because I was losing a lot of faith that it would happen. My arm was also losing faith.” 

He said his arm was sore for about 10 days after what organizers are calling “the longest shot ever by a priest on the playground.” 

To date, the parish has raised more than $45,000, while St. John’s Catholic School has raised more than $275,000. 

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“Which is insane,” Konrade said in one of the videos. 

The operating deficits are gone, at least for now.

He is even more excited about the forthcoming perpetual adoration of the Eucharist. 

“When you see perpetual adoration, you see people on their knees before Jesus 168 hours a week, you see a fruitfulness that can be like a heartbeat of a parish,” Konrade said. 

The bishop gets involved 

Parishioners asked Bishop Vincke if he would perform a feat if the campaign reached the $250,000 milestone. He didn’t like the ideas presented to him, so he decided to pray about it. In November, he hit upon the idea of making a long walk to pray for peace. 

The theme fits well with the area, Holdren told CNA. 

“I think there’s a sense here in the diocese that there’s momentum, that God is asking for our prayer and our action for peace,” Holdren said. 

The walk in Kansas is a forerunner to the upcoming National Eucharistic Pilgrimage — four 1,500-mile-plus Eucharistic processions beginning May 17 and ending in July in Indianapolis, where a National Eucharistic Congress is scheduled to take place. 

Vincke often walks two miles a day, but nothing like this. 

He’s originally from Michigan, so he’s not afraid of the cold. 

But seven hours-plus of walking? 

“I don’t know what to expect. I’ve never done this before,” Vincke said. “I just feel that I’m going to be walking with Mary and Jesus, so everything’s going to be OK.” 

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