By Katrina Genereux/Associate Editor, OND
Bagley – After celebrating Mass at St. Joseph, Bagley, around 8 a.m. a group of seven pilgrims began walking east along highway 2 on the second day of a five-day walking pilgrimage. They began in Wilton and will walk 80 miles to Crookston to pray and raise awareness for vocations, especially to the priesthood.
Five walkers will complete the whole route and six others are participating in one or more days of the journey. Each day of the pilgrimage starts with Mass. While walking 18 to 27 miles, the pilgrims pray the rosary and vocations prayer. They stop each evening at a church and have dinner, a vocations presentation and hour of Adoration.
The pilgrimage began July 30 and will end on August 3 with a votive Mass for the Feast of St. John Vianney at 8:30 a.m. at Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception, Crookston. Liedl said the dates were chosen to coincide with the Feast of St. John Vianney, who is the patron saint of parish priests and vocations.
David O’Brien Liedl of St. Philip, Bemidji, started the event. He was discerning a way to help increase awareness of vocations and a way to give back to and build up the Church when his father-in-law mentioned the Diocese of Duluth held a 90-mile walking pilgrimage for vocations 20 years ago.
Liedl said the purpose of the pilgrimage is two-fold: praying for current vocations and for new vocations.
“The priesthood and religious life are a beautiful thing and we need holy men and women to be open to dedicating and giving their lives to God,” he said.
Dan Walter of St. Philip, Bemidji, is the support driver for the group. He is driving a pickup with a pull behind camper to meet the group along the way for lunch and to haul supplies.
“I take it as a blessing being with this group,” he said. “The hope is that it will generate some vocations … the Holy Spirit, may he be active, may we be willing to be his tools.”
His wife Mary Walter is one of the walking pilgrims. She is grateful for the prayer time at Mass and on the road. She hopes the group’s efforts will make people more aware of vocation to the priesthood.
Liedl invited Father Bryan Kujawa, Parochial Vicar of St. Philip’s, to be part of the pilgrimage.
Father Kujawa said it has been a gift to lead worship and get to know the pilgrims while helping everyone remember their goal and intention for the pilgrimage.
“The idea of pilgrimage is such a rich part of our tradition as Catholics and at the same time it’s something we have kind of lost over the years as different transportation has developed,” Father Kujawa said. “We have really lost our sense of taking a long time to reach our pilgrimage destination and it’s such a beautiful thing, a beautiful image of Christian life actually.”
Liedl said it has been fulfilling to step back from the hectic pace of family life and work to dedicate whole days to walking and prayer.
Harrison and Kim Pitcher from St. Joseph, Moorhead, weren’t sure how the extensive walking would go, but after covering 20 miles the first day, they were ready for the second.
Kim hopes the pilgrimage will produce good fruit even in the difficulties facing vocational discernment today.
“Right now, we are praying for more wonderful younger priests who will continue to lead people down right paths,” she said. “Life is so confusing right now for young people. We need good leaders.”
Joshua Johnson, a college seminarian for the Diocese of Crookston, was unable to come for the first day of the pilgrimage but joined the group for the second day and will continue through the end.
This summer Johnson has realized the importance of prayer and sacrifice in working for vocations. He was excited to participate in the pilgrimage as an active form of prayer and finds the event to be very encouraging for his own vocational discernment.
“Knowing that around the diocese there is the support of people who are praying for vocations who are doing things for vocations, for me that is a great sign of encouragement. It helps me continue on,” Johnson said.
During the final Mass at Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception, a chalice that has been used throughout the pilgrimage will be blessed and continue promoting vocations through parishioners at St. Philip.
“This chalice that has journeyed with us as we have been praying and offering Mass for vocations really then will become a chalice that will go back to our parish and then become a chalice that each week goes to a different home,” Liedl said.
While families have the chalice in their homes, they will pray especially for vocations. Liedl said the hope is this will help keep vocations at the forefront of people’s minds.
“Vocations should be not just something we think about once a year, but that in our own homes and parishes we are constantly talking about it,” he said.