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National Eucharistic pilgrims delighted to be ‘processing all across America with Jesus’: Photo gallery

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Father Matthew Nagal, pastor of Mater Dei Parish in Topeka, Kan., carries the monstrance through the archway at Church of the Assumption in Topeka where it was placed for Benediction June 27, 2024. The church was a stop on the National Eucharistic Pilgrimage's Serra Route. (OSV News photo/Jay Soldner, the Leaven)

NORTONVILLE, Kan. — Five-year-old Hannah Lock had lots of questions about the National Eucharistic Pilgrimage that passed through Nortonville June 25. But her most pressing one was “Where is Jesus?”

“She thought Jesus was one of the priests,” said her mother, Kayla Lock, a member of St. Augustine Parish in Fidelity.

While the explanation that Jesus was present in the Eucharist in the monstrance may have slightly disappointed Hannah, hundreds of others who took part in the pilgrimage were delighted to have the opportunity to see and process with the Eucharistic Christ as pilgrims made their way through the Archdiocese of Kansas City in Kansas June 24-29.

“It was so beautiful,” said Rachael Schmidt, a member of St. Mary Parish in Derby, who attended the Atchison leg of the pilgrimage. “It’s an amazing witness of processing all across America with Jesus.”

Schmidt, who will be a freshman at Benedictine College in the fall, said she knew the pilgrimage was going to be a powerful event.

“I couldn’t miss it,” she told The Leaven, the archdiocesan newspaper. “People everywhere are going to see this and wonder what is going on and see all these people following Jesus.”

The National Eucharistic Pilgrimage is actually four routes with pilgrims crossing the United States from four directions: Marian, from the north; Seton, from the east; Juan Diego, from the south; Serra, from the west. They will converge in Indianapolis July 16 for the National Eucharistic Congress, taking place July 17-21.

The Serra Route, which started in San Francisco, passed through the Kansas City Archdiocese. Some people traveled long distances to the archdiocese to be a part of this pilgrimage.

Lucy Reyes, a member of St. Matthew Parish, Charlotte, North Carolina, was one such pilgrim.

Reyes joined the procession in Atchison. Traveling with her sister-in-law, who is from Florida, Reyes said being part of the pilgrimage was deeply moving.

“It’s awesome. It’s amazing” she said. “The community around the Eucharist was so overwhelming. It’s just beautiful.”

The pilgrimage entered the archdiocese on a blistering hot afternoon, crossing from Missouri over into Kansas via the Amelia Earhart Bridge June 25. Sweat dripped down the faces and saturated the clothes of the pilgrims, as the body of Christ made its way to Benedictine College. The following day, pilgrims processed through the verdant campus of Benedictine College, the dusty roads of Nortonville and the busy streets of downtown Topeka.

Each stop along the way offered an opportunity to adore and/or process with the Blessed Sacrament. St. Joseph Parish in Nortonville relished the opportunity to be part of the pilgrimage.

“It’s overwhelming to consider that a little rural parish with less than 100 families is important enough to be a stop on this national pilgrimage,” said Becky Weishaar, a St. Joseph parishioner. “To think that this has been making its way all the way from California and will be a huge part of that Eucharistic Revival in Indianapolis is very exciting to us to bring people closer to the Lord in the real presence of Christ.”

On a national level, interest in the pilgrimages has exceeded expectations. The Kansas City archdiocesan leg was no exception, as most churches had standing-room only for adoration, Masses and Holy Hours.

“It’s hard to plan for an event when you don’t know how many people are coming, but the Lord provides,” said Father Nathan Haverland, pastor of Most Pure Heart of Mary Parish in Topeka and one of the organizers of the Topeka portion of the pilgrimage. “We planned the best that we could and he provides for the rest.”

Hundreds of pilgrims processed from St. Joseph Church in Topeka to Assumption Church. At Assumption, the church was packed to capacity and beyond.

June 27 began with Mass at Assumption followed by a procession to the Brown vs Topeka Board of Education Park where, at a prayer service, Archbishop Joseph F. Naumann of Kansas City noted the importance of the Brown Supreme Court decision and its role in combating racism.

“Every time we leave Mass, we’re sent on a mission to change the world and to bring Jesus Christ to every corner of society. We give thanks to all those who were instrumental in this landmark decision that ended segregation in our schools,” he said.

The archbishop said it was a great moment for the church and the pilgrimage to stop at the park and recognize the sacrifices that have been made for racial equality.

June 28 began with the “Mission on Mission Road,” a procession that wound its way from the Church of the Nativity in Leawood to the Cathedral of St. Peter in Kansas City for an evening of Eucharistic adoration. On the way to the cathedral were stops at two Catholic churches, a park and Donnelly College.

Before the pilgrimage journeyed on to the neighboring Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph, Missouri, Archbishop Naumann celebrated morning Mass June 29 at the cathedral.