By Br Antonio Lemos
If you ask me what the New Evangelization looks like I would invite you to join me next year in the Pilgrimage in New York City. On March 23rd and a group of priests and brothers and I participated with 400 hundred people in the 4th Annual Pilgrimage of New York City. It was amazing to spend the day visiting churches, walking, praying and sharing the faith with other pilgrims in such a big and busy urban center. The pilgrimage started on the top of the island on St Frances Cabrini Shrine, and went all the way through the city, stoping at 7 Marian churches, finishing with mass on St Elizabeth Ann Seton Shrine at the southern tip of Manhattan. The pilgrims walked a total of 13.5 miles in 10 hours. At end of our journey everyone was dead tired, but very happy to spend the day with the Lord and to plant so many seeds on our way.
Mario Bruschi, one of the organizers of the pilgrimage, gave us an interview.
Mario, how did you have the idea to organize the pilgrimage of New York?
Back in 2008, Chris Lowney, former managing director at JP Morgan and author, went on the Camino to Santiago de Compostela. When he came back, he gave a presentation on his experience to the young adult ministry of St Patrick’s Cathedral young adults. After his talk, he approached my friend Pat Howley and me and suggested that our group should organize a walking pilgrimage in NYC. We thought he was crazy and that it would never work. But in 2009, we decided to give it a chance and we organized a walking pilgrimage to visit the 5 major Catholic sites in Manhattan: St Frances Xavier Cabrini Shrine (patron saint of the immigrants), St Patrick’s Cathedral, St Peter’s Church (the oldest Catholic parish in NYC), Basilica of Old St Patrick’s Cathedral (the first Cathedral in New York City), and St Elizabeth Ann Seton Shrine (the first American born saint). We organized this walking pilgrimage in conjunction with other Catholic young adult groups.
What is the main goal of the pilgrimage?
We have two goals: educate people about our churches in New York City so that they can come back again and visit these great churches on their own. Parishes need our support. We need to make people aware of the beautiful churches we have here in the city. We are not asking people to leave their own parishes but to spread the word about the churches they visit on this pilgrimage. The second goal is evangelization. We cannot convert everyone we see on the streets in NYC but we can plant seeds of faith by our presence and example. And we can help the pilgrims as well. One amazing miracle of this event is the story of a young woman I met at the 3rd annual Pilgrimage of NY. She told me that she came to the first one in 2010 but she wasn’t a practicing Catholic at the time. After she participated in the first pilgrimage, she started going back to church every Sunday. Now she is a very active Catholic.
What was the experience of the people that participated?
People experience a lot of joy when they reach the end of the journey. They cannot believe that they walked 13.5 miles! And they enjoy visiting the churches because they learn something new about their faith in NYC and they also learn about their relationship with Jesus. The presence of priests is so helpful for us! Priests have talked to me about their experience and they love this event because it gives them the chance to meet so many people and talk to them about their lives, their problems, their faith, etc… I think the priests get a lot out of this event. And they help so many pilgrims along the way. At the end of the day, people feel that they have done a wonderful thing for God, and that is a great feeling.
For more info: http://www.pofnyc.org/