Diocese to host Eucharistic Pilgrimage events

July 1-5 processions and walking between parishes along the Katy Trail; events in Sedalia, Boonville, Columbia, Jefferson City, Starkenburg


Catholics in the Jefferson City diocese will play an important role for a few days this summer in making the case that Jesus meant what he said.

Namely: “This is my Body, which will be given for you; do this in memory of me,” (Luke 22:19).

One of the four groups of perpetual pilgrims with the National Eucharistic Pilgrimage will pass through the diocese July 1-5, 2024, bringing abundant opportunities for prayer and participation.

The groups began their eight-week odyssey on May 19, the Solemnity of Pentecost.

Each group includes priests, religious and laypeople processing on foot with the Most Blessed Sacrament.

They encourage people in each diocese to join them for a stretch as they make their way to the National Eucharistic Congress in Indianapolis.

People are encouraged to participate in Mass, Adoration, catechesis and fellowship in Sedalia, Boonville, Columbia, Jefferson City and Starkenburg, and to walk in procession with the Blessed Sacrament along the Katy Trail between several locales.

“My brothers and sisters, we are part of something at the national level to bring a better worship, awe and wonder of the greatest gift given to Humanity: the Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity of our Lord Jesus Christ!” Father Joseph Corel told his parishioners of St. Vincent de Paul Parish of Pettis County.

During those stops, events will be planned at various parishes to include dinner, talks on the Eucharist, and Adoration with praise & worship music.

“We hope that this will be an opportunity for everyone to encounter the abundant love of God and grow in their relationship with him,” said Mary Madelyn Mertes, assistant director of catechetical formation for the Jefferson City diocese.

 The full schedule of events planned in the diocese can be found online at: diojeffcity.org/eucharisticrevival.

“You don’t have to try to take on the whole thing,” Maureen Quinn, diocesan director of religious education and youth/young adult ministry, noted. “Pick one event, and plan to be a part of it.”

People are strongly encouraged to sign up for whichever events they hope to take part in, to help with planning.

The ambitious foot pilgrimage (eucharisticpilgrimage.org) is part of the National Eucharistic Revival, a three-year initiative launched in 2022 by the U.S. bishops to inspire a deeper love and reverence for Jesus in the Eucharist.

It came in response to a Pew Research Center survey’s findings that only one-third of U.S. Catholics believe the Church’s teaching of Jesus being truly present in the Eucharist.

All four arms of the pilgrimage trace what organizers call “a sign of the cross over the nation,” as pilgrims traverse a combined 6,500 miles across 27 states and 65 dioceses, through small towns, large cities and rural countryside — often on foot, always with the Eucharist.

The group that will pass through Missouri began it’s more-than-2,200-mile evangelizing pilgrimage in San Francisco, led by that city’s archbishop carrying Jesus in the Eucharist, traveling across the Golden Gate Bridge.

The other three routes start in Brownsville, Texas; New Haven, Connecticut; and Lake Itasca, Minnesota.

The pilgrims on the longest arm of the pilgrimage will be seasoned and well acclimated to the rigors of their daily walking by the time they arrive in Missouri.

Walking and worshiping

The July 1-5 events in this diocese fall into the categories of walking and worshiping.

From 6 to 9 p.m. on Monday, July 1, St. Vincent de Paul Parish in Sedalia will host a pot-luck dinner, bilingual programming at Sacred Heart School, and a solemn Eucharistic Procession to St. Patrick Chapel for Adoration and Confession.

“Being chosen as a host parish along the pilgrimage route is an honor and a blessing,” said Fr. Corel. “It’s a once-in-a-lifetime event to renew not just our faith, but to allow us to help those outside our parish experience this renewal along with us!”

Ss. Peter & Paul Parish in Boonville will host a dinner, talks on the Mass and the Eucharist, and Adoration and Confession from 6 to 9 p.m. on Tuesday, July 2.

St. Thomas More Newman Center Parish in Columbia will host Mass, Adoration, Confession and lunch from noon to 2 p.m. on Wednesday, July 3.

That evening from 6 to 9 p.m., Cathedral of St. Joseph Parish in Jefferson City will host a dinner, talks in English and Spanish on the Mass and the Eucharist, bilingual Adoration and Confession.

Mass will be celebrated at 9 a.m. on Thursday, July 4, in the Proto-Cathedral of St. Peter, near the Capitol in Jefferson City, followed by Adoration until 6 p.m.

Adoration and lunch, talks on the Mass and the Eucharist, and a pilgrim send-off will take place from noon to 1:30 p.m. on Friday, July 5 at the Shrine of Our Lady of Sorrows in Starkenburg.

Individuals are invited to join the 12 perpetual pilgrims as they process with the Eucharist along the Katy Trail from parish to parish:

  • July 2 — Mass at 6:30 a.m. in St. Patrick Chapel in Sedalia, followed by a Eucharistic procession to Sacred Heart Chapel in Sedalia. Then, walk from St. Joseph Church in Pilot Grove to Ss. Peter & Paul Church in Boonville along the Katy Trail (about 12.5 miles).
  • July 3 — Mass at 6:30 a.m. in Ss. Peter & Paul Church in Boonville and a Eucharistic procession to the Katy Trail. Then, walk to New Franklin on the trail (about 3.6 miles), and continue to walk along the trail from the outskirts of Columbia to the St. Thomas More Newman Center (about 4.7 miles). Finally, walk from the outskirts of Jefferson City to the Cathedral of St. Joseph (about 4 miles).
  • July 5 — Mass at 8 a.m. in the Cathedral of St. Joseph, followed by a Eucharistic Procession to the Proto-Cathedral of St. Peter (about 2 miles).

Grace and nature

Ms. Mertes spoke of a Eucharistic procession — especially one that moves through nature and the countryside — as “all creation participating in the glory of God.”

“There’s something so powerful about seeing the Blessed Sacrament outside of a church — actually, going out into creation with the Creator,” she said.

All who receive Jesus in Holy Communion and who adore him in the Most Blessed Sacrament are necessarily sent out to make his presence visible and recognizable in the world.

“A Eucharistic procession is such a tangible experience of that sending, and of actually following the Lord out into the world,” Ms. Mertes stated.

She said people’s witness to the power of Christ in the Eucharist in their own lives is the most effective evangelization.

“It’s one thing to tell someone we believe in the Eucharist, it’s another thing for them to ask us what we believe in the Eucharist after they see us following it down the street,” she said.

Common journey

Monsignor Joseph Malagreca, pastor of Holy Cross Parish in Brooklyn, will give talks on the Eucharist in English and in Spanish and will lead a bilingual Holy Hour during Exposition of the Most Blessed Sacrament on July 3 in the Cathedral.

He is one of 57 Eucharistic preachers specially commissioned to help bring the Eucharistic Revival to parishes throughout the country.

He hopes people who are within driving distance of any of the events in the diocese will make it a priority to take part with their families.

He also adamantly encourages people to personally invite Catholic friends who are lukewarm in their faith or lax in their participation in the Sacraments.

Msgr. Malagreca is the national spiritual director for the Hispanic Catholic Charismatic Renewal in this country and is coordinator for the National Service of Communion, which fosters unity among the various groups within the Charismatic Renewal.

The Charismatic Renewal, thoroughly rooted in the Gifts of the Holy Spirit and in worshiping Christ in the Most Blessed Sacrament, has a vigorous presence in parts of Central and Northeastern Missouri, especially in parishes with large Hispanic populations.

Having organized numerous Eucharistic processions, Msgr. Malagreca is amazed at the thought of one so large taking place in four parts across the United States.

“It’s very powerful,” he said. “Because a Eucharistic procession has lots of wonderful things going on with it.”

It brings countless people together on a common journey.

“In that way, it imitates life,” said Msgr. Malagreca. “It makes you very aware of Jesus in the midst of the countryside.”

It also serves as a communal proclamation of faith in a country that is becoming more secular and focused on things other than God.

The priest said many of the parents of the more than 200 babies he baptizes in his parish each year know little about their faith.

Many are unaware that Christ makes himself fully present — Body, Blood, Spirit and Divinity — on the altar at every Mass and in the tabernacle of Catholic churches throughout the world.

“Anything to wake up people’s awareness of this is a good thing,” he said. “We’re not just trying to reach people who are already active in the Church, but also all the unchurched, secularized Catholics who still have some connection to the Catholic life.”

He noted that true belief in the Eucharist alters the course of every person’s life.

He predicted that a more Eucharist-centered Church and society will be “more united, more focused on Jesus, more desirous of Jesus, more desirous to share the faith, and of course, more love.”

When we say “Amen”

Other speakers, including Bishop Edward M. Rice of Springfield-Cape Girardeau, Father Paul Clark and Father Joseph Luzindana of this diocese, will offer inspiring insights and reminders.

Ms. Mertes pointed out how easy it is to become complacent to receiving Jesus in Holy Communion.

“Sometimes, I think we get so caught up in the habit of Mass that it’s very easy for us to just go through the motions and not actually think about what we’re saying, when we say, ‘Amen’ — ‘Yes, I believe that I am receiving the Lord, I believe that this is going to change me, I believe that I need to be more like Christ, I believe I need to change, I want to be changed,’” she said.

She offered that for anyone who is struggling with how to approach God in prayer, “God gives us the words of the Mass to pray with, and he gives us himself in the Eucharist to encounter.

“The most accessible form of prayer for us is to go and sit in a pew and listen to the Word of God and then to say ‘I believe,’ ‘Our Father,’ and ‘Lord, I am not worthy,’” she stated.

“We don’t have to come up with those words on our own. God gives them to us and he invites us to approach him and receive him and then be sent out and carry him to the rest of the world,” she said.

 Valerie Schmalz writes for OSV News from San Francisco. OSV News staff contributed to this report.