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Bishop Koenig set to lead cross pilgrimage April 9 sponsored by Diocese of Wilmington Catholic Youth Ministry

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The cross carried up Linden St. to St. Hedwig Church in Wilmington, Del., during the 2019 Cross Pilgrimage, April 13, 2019. Dialog photo/Don Blake

WILMINGTON — After a two-year absence, the cross pilgrimage sponsored by the Office of Catholic Youth Ministry returns on April 9, looking much the same as it did before the coronavirus pandemic.

The route will be a familiar one, starting in the morning at the St. E Center and ending some seven hours later next door at St. Elizabeth Church. In between, several hundred youth and adult leaders from all over the Diocese of Wilmington will walk more than four miles to various sites, where they will participate in activities related to their Catholic faith.

“It’s going well so far,” said Dan Pin, the director of CYM. “The route is all set. Same stops, same activities. The band is ready to go.”

The big difference this year will be noticeable at the front of the caravan, where the diocesan Pilgrimage Cross leads the way. It will be the first one for Bishop Koenig, who arrived in the diocese last summer. All 10 of the previous pilgrimages were led by Bishop Francis Malooly, who brought the tradition with him from the Archdiocese of Baltimore.

Bishop Koenig said he is looking forward to walking with the young people. He noted that walking in the footsteps of Jesus is one of the spiritual exercises. We can recall not only Jesus’ journey carrying the cross, “but also we’re invited to be mindful of how Jesus continues to have that happen through people suffering and maybe through the ways that we can help people carry that cross.”

Bishop Koenig says a prayer as runners gather for the Bishop’s 5K at St. Mark’s High School on Nov. 20. Photo/Don Blake

The pilgrimage begins at the St. E Center with registration and entertainment by musical guests The Scally Brothers at 10:30 a.m. The group will proceed up Clayton Street to St. Francis Hospital for a blessing of the patients, then over to St. Anthony of Padua Church for the sacrament of reconciliation. There will be Stations of the Cross at Padua Academy, kneeling before the Blessed Sacrament at St. Paul Church, and blessing of palms at St. Hedwig Church. Finally, the caravan will walk back to St. Elizabeth Church for a closing Mass at 5 p.m.

Pin said the last pilgrimage, in 2019, drew more than 750 participants, up from the year before. The 2020 event was planned and ready to go before everything was shut down in early March, and no pilgrimage was held last year as the diocese continued to deal with the pandemic. Pin said that as late as mid-December he wasn’t sure CYM would be able to resume the pilgrimage this year, and even when the outlook brightened a month later, he had to hold off making an announcement. But the plans were made, and once it was possible, things fell into place quickly.

“The hardest thing this year was not knowing when we’d be able to announce it,” he said.

Another factor that had to be considered was that the diocesan youth leadership team, which plans this and other events, is not the same group that had done the work in the past. They would have been too young to be on the team in 2019.

Pin said groups from as far away as Salisbury and Ocean City, Md., have registered for the event, which typically draws young people from all parts of the diocese. Bishop Koenig said from his experiences with young people, they can benefit from being with their peers from other places.

“When they come together with other parishes or other schools, they realize, ‘My gosh, this isn’t just a local thing, our faith, but this is shared by lots of other people.’ That in itself can also be a powerful experience,” he said.

Bishop Koenig said he definitely will wear comfortable shoes but is hopeful he can leave his umbrella at home. With Easter falling later on the calendar this year, perhaps the weather will be a bit warmer, he added. Bishop Koenig did note that although he will be at the front of the pilgrimage, he may need some help with directions along the way.

Pre-registration is required and is available, along with more information, at www.cdowcym.org/events/detail/pilgrimage-2022.