Metuchen diocese holds 9-mile walking pilgrimage for spiritual renewal

Father Timothy Christy vicar general for the Diocese of Metuchen leads the Eucharistic Procession for the last three miles of the walking pilgrimage Credit Tara Smith 3 Father Timothy Christy, vicar general for the Diocese of Metuchen, leads the Eucharistic Procession for the last three miles of the Sept. 21 walking pilgrimage. | Tara Smith.

More than 700 people participated in a nine-mile pilgrimage through the streets of New Jersey's Hunterdon County on Saturday in order to call for a spiritual awakening and increased discipleship in the Diocese of Metuchen.

The Sept. 21 pilgrimage was part of the diocese's preparation for consecration to Christ through Our Lady of Guadalupe, which will take place on her feast, Dec. 12.

The journey was a loop that began and ended at Immaculate Conception Parish in Annandale, about 30 miles west of Metuchen.

During the pilgrimage the participants, among whom were 23 priests, prayed the rosary in both English and Spanish, and sang Marian hymns. The priests were available to hear confessions during the walk, and there was Eucharistic Adoration and a Holy Hour at the six-mile point of the pilgrimage.

Those who couldn't join the procession, the parish held day-long Eucharistic adoration.

The choice of a nine-mile pilgrimage was significant to the story of Our Lady of Guadalupe's apparition in Mexico.

"Deep in our spiritual tradition 'pilgrimages' signify and make present our ultimate journey home to heaven, recalling the truth that 'as Christians, we have no earthly home,'" said Fr. Timothy Christy, vicar general and moderator of the curia for the Diocese of Metuchen. "Our pilgrimage commemorated the miles that St. Juan Diego regularly walked from his home to attend his catechesis to become Catholic in 1524."

Christy hopes that the people of the diocese will be moved to imitate St. Juan Diego's spirituality in their own lives, and be centered on Christ and the Church.

"St. Juan Diego's heart was so moved by the love of Jesus and His Church and love of the Virgin Mary, no obstacle was too much to keep him from being joined to the Body of Christ and so to be able then to be prepared to receive Holy Communion," said Christy.

"It is our hope that the people of our diocese will be reinvigorated by that same love for Jesus, the same love for His Church and the inspiration and protection of Our Lady of Guadalupe."

Sr. Anna Nguyen, SSC, described being "overwhelmed with emotion," and said the experience of the Eucharistic procession was one she will never forget.

Nguyen, a delegate for religious, helped coordinate the spiritual aspects of the pilgrimage.

"To see the faces of the people, all ages – clergy, religious, Eucharistic youth, young people, little children in carriages being pushed by their parents – all experiencing that we do not walk alone, Christ travels the 'Way' of our life with us!" said Nguyen.

"Even if (pilgrims) couldn't see the Eucharist from the back of the procession, the Lord's presence was palpable," she added.

Bishop James Cecchio of Metuchen participated in the last three miles of the pilgrimage and celebrated Mass at the conclusion. An additional 300 people were present for the anticipated Mass.

Checchio encouraged those present to be open to sacrifice in their discipleship, and to commit their lives to Jesus.

"By this Eucharist today, by our pilgrimage – 9 miles walking with the Lord and one another – we make a public statement to our Lord and to one another of where we choose to place our heart," said Checchio.

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"We ask the Lord to light our hearts on fire, we ask the Lord to strengthen us for the challenges and the difficulties that we and our families face…as we strive to bring the merciful presence of Christ to all who do not know Him yet," he said.

"I thank God for your striving to live this way, and I thank God for your witness today that you give through this pilgrimage – the times we live in, our times need more witnesses to Christ."

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