NEW YORK – About 10 months out from the U.S. bishops’ National Eucharistic Congress, an application to participate as a “perpetual pilgrim” to the congress is live, with the event’s leadership describing such pilgrims as the “heartbeat” and “caretakers” of the two-month-long journey.
Dubbed the “National Eucharistic Pilgrimage,” from May 17 to July 21, 2024, these “perpetual pilgrims” will start out from four separate locations across the country and travel to the National Eucharistic Congress site, which is Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis, Indiana.
Tim Glemkowski, the CEO of the National Eucharistic Congress, said these individuals will need the fortitude to accomplish the two-month-long pilgrimage, but also a joy, spiritual maturity, missionary spirit and zeal. A news release from the congress on Oct. 2 also noted that the pilgrims must be baptized and practicing Catholics, and agree to uphold Catholic teaching throughout.
“For us, the key concept to the whole Eucharistic Revival is inviting all of us to become Eucharistic missionaries, and so in a unique way, perpetual pilgrims are going to have to be examples of Eucharistic missionaries, young people who are in love with the Eucharist, [who] have a relationship with Jesus and the Eucharist, and want to be an agent for him,” Glemkowski told Crux Oct. 2.
“In this way, the perpetual pilgrims really become the heartbeat of the National Eucharistic Pilgrimage, and witnesses to the joy of a life lived in love with Jesus and the Eucharistic, but they’re also sort like caretakers of the entire route,” he said. “In a unique way they are ministers to everyone who’s joining.”
The application is open to young Catholics ages 19-29, with the deadline to submit an application November 28. Glemkowski said there isn’t a set number of pilgrims they’re looking for. The congress, however, previously said they were looking for 48 pilgrims – 12 for each of the four pilgrimage routes.
The four cities the pilgrimage will start from are: San Francisco; Bemidji, Minnesota; New Haven, Connecticut; and Brownsville, Texas. Each route was named for a patron saint corresponding to the geographical starting point. San Francisco is the Serra Route, after St. Junípero Serra. Bemidji is the Marian Route, after the veneration of Mary. New Haven is the Seton Route, after St. Elizabeth Seton. And Brownsville is the Juan Diego Route, after St. Juan Diego.
Formal plans for each route are still in the works.
What’s known at this point is the intention for the San Francisco route to begin with a Eucharistic procession across the Golden Gate Bridge. There are also plans for a procession down the Hudson River in New York, with the intention of stopping at Ellis Island to “honor the faith brought to the United States,” according to the National Eucharistic Congress. There are plans for a Mass of adoration and crawfish boil down along the Gulf Coast, as well.
Alongside the perpetual pilgrims, there will be priest chaplains who will cycle through on a weekly schedule. The priest chaplains will be charged with helping celebrate Mass, leading Eucharistic processions, take part in devotions, and hearing confessions. In general, there will be a consistent schedule for each pilgrimage route that includes Mass and major solemn procession on Sundays, with Mass and smaller processions at parishes during the week.
The intention for the pilgrimage is to have “day pilgrims” join the “perpetual pilgrims.” These are the 100,000-plus Catholics expected to join the pilgrimage along the way on what will be designated official segments. The idea is to give all Catholics an opportunity to participate in the pilgrimage in some fashion.
The National Eucharistic Congress, which the pilgrimage leads to, is the culmination of the U.S. Bishops National Eucharistic Revival initiative they launched in 2021, in response to a Pew Research study that showed just 30 percent of Catholics understand the real presence of Christ in the Eucharist. The first year was focused on the diocesan level, with the current second year focused on the parish level.
Glemkowski told Crux on Oct. 2 that they’ve sold about 25,000 tickets to the event so far, which he said is “a great start” to reaching their goal of having more than 80,000 Catholics in attendance. The Congress, which is scheduled for July 17-21, 2024, will include Eucharistic adoration, Masses, different speakers, music and worship entertainment, plays being written for the Congress and films being shown, he said.
The heart of all this activity, he said, is the core concept of being a Eucharistic missionary.
“All of it is about more than just gathering as a Church. It’s about gathering as a Church for a reason, for a purpose. That purpose is renewal,” Glemkowski said. “We want to see God in our Church and in our world in a new way, and so we’re going to gather together to invite that action of the Holy Spirit.”
Follow John Lavenburg on X: @johnlavenburg