National Eucharistic Pilgrimage enters the Archdiocese of Milwaukee

The National Eucharistic Pilgrimage’s Marian Route entered the Archdiocese of Milwaukee on Tuesday, June 18. (Photo by Greta Taxis)

It’s a rarer sight than it should be, these days — a truly full church, each pew packed from one end to the other, the faithful sitting shoulder to shoulder, elbow to elbow.

But such was the scene at Ss. Peter and Paul Church in downtown Kiel on the evening of June 18, as the National Eucharistic Pilgrimage made its way out of the Diocese of Green Bay and into the Archdiocese of Milwaukee. To mark the occasion, the public was invited to gather for Mass with the perpetual pilgrims accompanying the Eucharist.

“We have a lot to be thankful for this afternoon,” said Bishop David Ricken of the Diocese of Green Bay, as he addressed the crowded church during his homily.

Bishop Ricken noted that while in his diocese, the Eucharistic Pilgrimage visited more than 25 venues.

“I think it says to me that there’s a great spiritual hunger for God,” said Bishop Ricken of the response to the pilgrimage. “When we take the Eucharistic Lord out in public, it’s like we’re walking as disciples with Christ.”

The National Eucharistic Pilgrimage’s Marian Route arrived in the Diocese of Green Bay on June 12 after departing from Crookston, Minnesota, on May 19. The Marian Route is one of four routes of the National Eucharistic Pilgrimage; all four will ultimately converge in Indianapolis on July 17 for the 10th National Eucharistic Congress from July 17-21.

The Mass in Kiel was significant because it marked the end of the pilgrimage’s time in the Diocese of Green Bay and its official passing into the Archdiocese of Milwaukee, where the pilgrims will carry the Eucharist throughout southeastern Wisconsin, stopping at more than 50 parishes, retreat centers and shrines along the way.

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Archbishop Jerome E. Listecki was in attendance at the June 18 Mass and, at Benediction following the Mass, received the monstrance from Bishop Ricken. After accepting the monstrance and leading the congregation of adorers in the Divine Praises, Archbishop Listecki carried the Eucharist out to a waiting vehicle, which took it to its first stop in the Archdiocese of Milwaukee — an “Encounter Night,” the first of nine to take place during the pilgrimage’s time in the archdiocese, held at Our Lady of the Holyland’s Holy Cross site in Mount Calvary.

“When Bishop Ricken handed the Blessed Sacrament to Archbishop Listecki, the last 15 months of planning, meetings and emails came to a beautiful realization of what this is all about,” said Jenni Oliva, Director of Events and Special Projects for the Archdiocese of Milwaukee.

And what’s it’s all about, said Bishop Ricken, is actually who it’s all about.

“The forces of darkness and division of hatred are getting more powerful, or so it seems,” said Bishop Ricken in his homily. “But they are not more powerful than God. They’re not more powerful than the Holy Eucharist.”

This pilgrimage is an invitation, he said, to “wake up” to the understanding of the power of the Eucharist and Jesus’ presence within it — body, blood, soul and divinity.

“And so, this Eucharistic Revival, this carrying of the Lord in procession from town to town, is all about saying he’s still here,” said Bishop Ricken. “He’s right with us. He’s leading us.”

Fr. John Paul Mitchell will act as the chaplain for the Eucharistic Pilgrimage during its time in the archdiocese. He told the Catholic Herald he expected his duties to be an eclectic and surprising mix of “whatever God sees fit to unfold in his grace.”

“I’m slated to preach on the Eucharist at each of the Encounter Nights, and I’m sure I’ll hear lots of confessions,” he said. “I have been spiritually supporting the planning of the pilgrimage with my prayers, and will be available along the way to step in for whatever liturgical needs arise as the procession makes its way from site to site.”

Fr. Mitchell said the pilgrimage strikes him as a “historic undertaking of the Church in the United States.”

“And what a beautiful undertaking to embark on it is,” he said. “In the beginning, God walked with Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden. When we were exiled from the garden on account of our sin, God steadily worked to restore his presence among us and enable us to walk in his holy presence again, first through the liturgy he bestowed at Mt. Sinai by which he came to ‘tabernacle’ among his people and journey with them to the Promised Land, and ultimately through his Incarnation and the gift of the Eucharist he bestowed as a means of remaining with us always, until the end of the age.”

As he walks the pilgrimage, Fr. Mitchell said he will be reflecting on “God’s great and ancient — even everlasting — desire to walk among his holy people and journey with us through the wilderness of our lives.”

“He is truly present in the Eucharist, where he reveals above all that he is indeed Emmanuel, ‘God with us,’ who will never abandon us,” he said. “I hope and pray this pilgrimage touches many lives, Catholic and non-Catholic alike, as the Risen Lord passes through our midst.”