‘Everyone is hungry to know Jesus’ say perpetual pilgrims as they pass through Cincinnati enroute for Indianapolis

by Laura Keener, Editor

The historic National Eucharistic Pilgrimage made its way through the Archdiocese of Cincinnati, July 1–8. Known locally by the slogan “Jesus Is Here,” the St. Elizabeth Ann Seton route of the Eucharistic pilgrimage made stops at seven Cincinnati churches, including a climaxed stop, July 6, at the Cathedral Basilica St. Peter in Chains, where Archbishop Dennis Schnurr celebrated Mass with an overflow crowd of an estimated 3,000 people, including many faithful from the Diocese of Covington.

Father Jacob Lindle, parochial vicar at the Mary, Queen of Angels Family of Parishes, which includes Immaculate Conception (North Lewisburg), Sacred Heart (St. Paris), St. Mary (Urbana), St. Mary of the Woods (Russells Point), St. Michael (Mechanicsburg) and St. Patrick (Bellefontaine), was the homilist. He is a young priest who was ordained in 2022.

In his homily, Father Lindle mentioned how it is common for people to ask about his age. Subsequently, the conversation falls to the dwindling number of youths in the Catholic Church. People ask Father Lindle frequently, “How do we keep them?”

“Some people say to me,’ Father, we need to mix things up … the youth, they like excitement. They like when things change.’ And I have to inform them as a young person myself that that’s not true. It’s the young who know the power of consistency, who can cry out again and again,” said Father Lindle, “It’s us who have grown old and grown tired.”

“The youth teach us something about the power of God,” he said, “who each morning says to the sun ‘arise’, and it rises … God responds with his faithful love each morning.”

“We have bread, coming down to our altars every single Sunday that won’t perish. We have the bread of life … do we grow tired?” Father Lindle asked. “What a tragedy that God’s humble love is not enough for us. We need to turn and grow young.”

Following Mass, a two blocks-long Eucharistic procession made its way through the streets of downtown Cincinnati from the Cathedral to Fountain Square for adoration, reflection, Benediction and celebration.

The Seton route — the Eastern route — is one of four Eucharistic Pilgrimage routes making its way, like a cruciform, across the United States to its destination — the National Eucharistic Congress in Indianapolis, July 17–21. The other three routes, also heading toward Indianapolis, include the Marian Route (Northern route) starting at Lake Itasca, Montana; the St. Juan Diego Route (Southern route) starting at Brownsville, Texas; and the St. Junipero Serra Route (Western route), the longest route at 2,200 miles, starting at San Francisco, California.

On May 18, six perpetual pilgrims — Christoph Bernas, Dominic Carstens, Zoe Dongas, Marina Frattaroli, Natali Garza and Amayrani Higueldo — began their Seton route pilgrimage with the Eucharistic Lord in New Haven, Connecticut. The route has taken the pilgrims along the Atlantic coast, through the nation’s oldest diocese — the Archdiocese of Baltimore — and across the Appalachian Mountains.

The Messenger caught up with pilgrims Christoph Bernas and Zoe Dongas at St. William Church, Cincinnati, July 7, following Holy Hour and a cookout, to gather their perspective on the Eucharistic Pilgrimage. With being just days away from their destination, the two pilgrims reflected on how they experienced God’s initial call to join the pilgrimage and how that call has changed or been reinforced.

Mr. Bernas said with a smile, “I feel like I’ve been duped a little. I signed up for a 65-day perpetual pilgrimage.” But after literally walking with Christ for the past 50 days he has arrived at a new realization. “I’m not just a pilgrimuntil this ends in about seven days, I am a pilgrim until I die and that is a lot to unpack. I’m still working on (under- standing) exactly what that means and how that demands that I’ll change my life and work more and more towards evangelizing others and evangelizing myself. That is definitely a lot and I learned that on this pilgrimage.”

Ms. Dongas said that for her initially the pilgrimage met her “desires for adventure and desires on my heart to do something crazy for Jesus.” But like Mr. Bernas, over the weeks of traveling with the Eucharistic Lord, “Jesus has made those desires deeper and deeper in my heart … it’s now a lifelong invitation to put Jesus at the center, specifically in the Eucharist, and to raise him up as high as we’re able so that he can be praised and adored by many.” Both pilgrims experienced spiritual highlights early in the pilgrimage, while in New York. For Ms. Dongas, it was while celebrating Benediction on a boat near the Statue of Liberty.

“To do Benediction on a boat like the way that Jesus traveled with his apostles … was itself a beautiful image of living the Gospels, but then to do Benediction at a statue that represents liberty, with Jesus, who is the one who sets us free, truly, that was just a beautiful, surreal moment.”

Mr. Bernas was struck by the love and joy the Sisters of Life demonstrated for Jesus in the Eucharist. As the Eucharistic procession exited the Sisters’ chapel on the site of St. Elizabeth Seton’s house in Manhattan, the Sisters of Life sprinkled rose petals from the choir loft down on the Eucharist as it passed.

“They were really exemplifying the spousal nature of their call and their love for Christ as their divine spouse … it was just like, wow, they really love him,” he said.

Both pilgrims said that no matter where the pilgrimage has taken them — on the sea, along the shore, through the mountains, in big cities, small towns or along country roads — what has been most inspiring is the faith of the people who have joined them in procession, for Mass, for adoration or who have just come out of their house or peered through the window to see the Lord and to be together in community.

“Everyone is hungry to know Jesus more, even if they don’t know that hunger is Jesus,” said Ms. Dongas. “It’s been really beautiful for us to see the hunger they have for community and that is all centered in Jesus — to see this desire to know others more deeply and to know Jesus more deeply. It’s been really interesting to see that kind of a universal thing — that everyone is seeking this relationship.”

The National Eucharistic Pilgrimage is the first of two unifying events of the Eucharistic Revival. The second and culminating event is the National Eucharistic Congress, which will be held July 17–21 in Indianapolis. Both are part of a three-year initiative sponsored by the United States Bishops, which officially began June 16, 2022, on the Solemnity of Corpus Christi. The revival’s goals include inspiring and preparing people to have a renewed encounter with Jesus Christ in the Eucharist. It’s never too late to get involved in revival and to grow deeper in understanding and faith in the Eucharist. Learn more at https://www.eucharisticrevival.org/.

Maura Baker, Messenger staff writer, contributed to this article.