Eucharistic pilgrims go ‘to the heights’ at the top of the Rocky Mountains

Steamboat procession The Eucharist makes its way up a ski hill in Steamboat Springs, Colorado, as part of the National Eucharistic Pilgrimage. | Credit: Greg Effinger/Archdiocese of Denver/Denver Catholic

As far as “highlights” go on the National Eucharistic Pilgrimage, thus far they don’t get much higher than 12,000 feet — at the top of the Continental Divide in the Colorado Rockies. 

There, last week, a priest held up the golden monstrance containing Jesus and blessed both halves of the nation, as Patrick Fayad and the other young Perpetual Pilgrims who are accompanying the Eucharist on a 2,000-mile trek looked on. 

“Just absolutely breathtaking, and even more breathtaking with Our Lord,” Fayad said while describing the experience at a Wednesday press conference featuring organizers of the congress and other Perpetual Pilgrims.

Fayad is one of the pilgrims on the Serra Route, which began in San Francisco. He said while the procession was in the Rocky Mountains, they visited the famous “Chapel on the Rock” in Allenspark and the Catholic summer camp Annunciation Heights, where they got a very enthusiastic reception from the young campers.

Chapel on the Rock. Credit: Patrick McKay via Flickr (CC BY-NC 2.0)
Chapel on the Rock. Credit: Patrick McKay via Flickr (CC BY-NC 2.0)

The lofty heights of the Rocky Mountains soon gave way to the Great Plains and the Colorado capital of Denver, a city whose 1993 hosting of World Youth Day with St. John Paul II has left a legacy of vibrant Catholic apostolates. On Sunday, June 9, nearly 5,000 people joined the pilgrims and filled the streets of downtown Denver in what was likely the largest Eucharistic procession in the city’s history.

On the northern Marian Route, more than 3,000 faithful gathered near the riverside city of La Crosse and, together with Minnesota pilgrims, processed with the Eucharist across the Mississippi River, which was originally named the River of the Immaculate Conception by Jesuit explorer Father Jacques Marquette in 1673.

As in previous weeks, the pilgrims had nothing but praise for the people they have met along the way who have shown them hospitality and welcome. They also expressed amazement at the large numbers of people who have come out to join the processions. 

“It feels like we’ve been on this pilgrimage for three years now because it’s been so jam-packed, but that’s so amazing,” said Amayrani Higueldo-Sanchez, a pilgrim on the eastern Seton Route, which recently passed by the National Shrine of St. Elizabeth Ann Seton in Emmitsburg, Maryland. 

“I think culturally, for me, it’s been a real shocker just to see how many different cultures worship in such different ways, but we’re all united in Christ. It’s just so beautiful to witness,” she continued. 

“Maybe we speak different languages, but just knowing that we worship the same God, it’s been really just edifying to me and just so beautiful to share with these people that I have nothing in common with sometimes.”

The first few weeks have been “pretty intense,” Fayad admitted. He said it has been a learning experience figuring out how to cultivate silent reflection time. But the pilgrims said the portions of the routes where they are driving in the vans has provided some time for quiet and solitude. 

“I think humans were made for stability, and that is definitely not what we have right now,” he said.

Having little free time has been “difficult, but also definitely really, really good for detachment,” he continued, saying that many of life’s ordinary comforts, while not bad in themselves, “have been removed from us.”

“[E]very single day spending time with Our Lord ... I’m slowly becoming a person who loves the Lord much more and is much closer to him. And I’ve been able to depend on him a lot more … It’s been really beautiful and difficult … but it’s for a great cause. It’s been wonderful,” he said. 

The four pilgrimages are roughly at their halfway point as the pilgrims continue to converge on Indianapolis for the National Eucharistic Congress from July 17–21. 

Catholics throughout the U.S. are encouraged to register to join the pilgrims in walking short sections of the pilgrimages and joining in numerous other special events put on by their local dioceses.

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To read much more ongoing coverage about the National Eucharistic Pilgrimage and National Eucharistic Congress, visit the National Catholic Register.

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