A Reflection on the National Eucharistic Pilgrimage

Friday, Jun. 28, 2024

By Juliana Boerio-Goates

Special to the Intermountain Catholic

I headed for the starting point of the Junipero Serra Eucharistic Pilgrimage Route in Utah with some ambivalence. Among my concerns: Would I be up to a two-mile procession? How would I get back to my car after the event?

Despite my trepidation, I wanted to be among the Utahns participating, however briefly, in the national event, not least because I had helped with the diocesan Eucharistic Revival Rally last summer.

Getting into my car, I typed the address into the navigation system and started my Catholic playlist to provide music for the two-hour drive from Orem to Logan. Singing along with the St. Louis Jesuits, John Henry Newman’s Lead Kindly Light, a few Taizé chants, a Latin Magnificat and my Spanish favorites Vienen con Alegria, Cristo Te Necesito and Caminaré strengthened my resolve to make it to Logan. My eclectic musical mix reflects the ethnic, cultural and spiritual diversity of the Catholic people I’ve come to know while serving in a host of diocesan projects over 40 years.

At the starting point of the procession, the Maverick Travel Stop in Hyde Park, I found unsuspecting travelers stopped for gas or a snack being treated to an unusual sight. Gathered in one corner of the parking lot were young people wearing the robes of altar servers; deacons in albs and stoles; several priests, one wearing a cope; and four men carrying a decorated canopy fit for a king. Two of the servers carried the banners of their parishes, St. Henry and St. Thomas Aquinas. These banners had been used in the afternoon Mass and Eucharistic Procession at the diocesan rally last July.

A large group gathered behind the ministers as the procession began. I chatted with a couple who had travelled from Ogden and a recent college grad from the Midwest who was part of the national pilgrimage team. Parents pushed baby strollers and corralled little ones who were tempted to run ahead. Teenagers moved together in groups. A father pulled a wagon for his daughter with disabilities to ride in when she grew tired. (Later at the Mass, this father and daughter passed the collection basket to my pew, and together they went up to receive Holy Communion.)

Another young girl, wearing a nun’s habit, beamed as she walked with those around the canopy and monstrance, having been given permission to be so close by our new vicar general, Fr. John Evans. I wondered if her mom were one of the Tremonton women who sewed nuns’ habits and priests’ vestments for the “Dress up like a saint/Consider a religious vocation” activity in the morning program that kicked off the 2023 Diocesan Rally. These ladies created their own patterns, bought the fabric and stitched many of the outfits that made this activity a highlight for the kids and their photo-snapping parents.

Singing in both English and Spanish broke out spontaneously as the procession made its way toward St. Thomas Aquinas Church. Folks checked their cell phones for the lyrics as needed. We stopped at homes where parishioners had decorated altars to welcome the Blessed Sacrament. Each time, we knelt, prayed and received a blessing with the Blessed Sacrament in the monstrance. Memories of the May altar I used to make to honor Mary bubbled up, that connection helping me to appreciate this Eucharistic devotion, maintained in these modern times by our Hispanic Catholics.

The Eucharistic Procession closed with prayers at a decorated altar outside St. Thomas Aquinas Catholic Church. Refreshments and dancing followed as people waited for the Mass. And the bilingual Mass, celebrated by the pastor, Fr. Rogelio Felix-Rosas, was joyous.  

Driving back to Orem, reflecting on the day of processions and Mass, I remembered an article by Bishop Daniel Flores of Brownsville, Texas, who had been a keynote speaker at our rally. Bishop Flores described a two-fold dimension of the Eucharistic mystery. One recognizes the Real Presence of Jesus, which we adore in quiet Eucharistic adoration and dynamic Eucharistic processions. The other is the experience of Eucharist in Mass as a banquet at which the blind and the lame are welcomed, where mercy flows generously, and the poor do not sit hungry while the rich feast. We must want to be part of this kind of banquet; to want something different is to trap ourselves in isolated frozen lakes. (The article from which these thoughts have been extracted can be found at https://churchlifejournal.nd.edu/articles/hunger-poverty-and-the-eucharist/.)

That day in northern Utah and the Eucharist-related events of the previous two years, where both dimensions of Eucharist were present, have been times of personal healing for me, a warming up from my frozen isolation. I am grateful to Bishop Oscar A. Solis; to Father Christopher Gray, who spearheaded the diocesan Eucharistic Revival efforts; to busy pastors like Fr. Rogelio, who carve out time in their already over-booked ministries; and to the laity whose time, talent and treasure help to turn visions into realities.

Juliana Boerio-Goates is a member of St. Francis of Assisi Parish in Orem. She has served on the Diocesan Pastoral Council under three bishops, on the Diocesan Pastoral Planning team, on the planning team for the 2023 Diocesan Eucharistic Revival Rally, and as a lay ecclesial minister in her parish.

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