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40 Miles closer to God

The Year of Mercy celebration, a pilgrimage, an opportunity to pass through the Holy Door at St. Joseph Co-Cathedral in Burlington and a visit to the site of the first Mass in Vermont celebrated 350 years ago were all rolled into one as parishioners of Maternity of the Blessed Virgin Mary Church in Springfield walked 40 miles from St. Anne’s Shrine in Isle LaMotte to the co-cathedral.

“We are called to deepen our relationship with God, so we felt that in this Year of Mercy, we would do it in a very traditional way, through pilgrimage,” said Father Peter Williams, pastor. “As we walked such a great distance we realized how powerless we are before God and hopefully learned to trust Him more.”

Six of the original 12 walkers completed the 40-mile walk July 30-31.

“After about 15 miles I had some blisters and could feel my body start to shut down, and then I thought of our Lord who was beaten and then had to carry His cross to His death,” said participant Paul Kendall. “It sure made walking the rest of the way seem pretty easy. What a wonderfully spiritual journey it was.”

The walk’s step off was preceded by a 7 a.m. Mass at the shrine and a blessing by Father Williams. Along the way the pilgrims observed an hour of silence and prayed a group rosary. After about seven hours everyone had arrived at a campground in Grand Isle, most able to finish the first 20 miles. The day concluded with evening prayer and planning for the second day of the pilgrimage.

Morning prayer was at 7:30 a.m. the next day. “Everyone had arrived at St. Joseph’s (Co-Cathedral) by 3 p.m., and as we prepared for Mass and walked through the Holy Door there was a shared feeling of reverence and accomplishment,” said Eileen Kendall, the parish’s religious education director. “All came away with a profound feeling of gratitude for such an amazing faith experience.”

She was reluctant to go on a 40-mile walk with camping in between, but it turned out to be a fulfilling experience for her. “I spent the weekend with people I don’t usually spend time with, and we all talked about our faith, our faith experience and those times we saw God in the people and the world around us,” she said. “It was more rewarding than I had expected to complete the pilgrimage, and when we walked through the door and knelt to pray it was powerful.”

 On June 26, 40 people took a chartered bus from the Springfield parish to St. Joseph Co-Cathedral to walk though the Holy Door.

According to the Bull of Indiction of the Extraordinary Jubilee of Mercy, anyone who passes through the Holy Door will experience the love of God who consoles, pardons and instills hope. The doors are symbols of God’s mercy, open to welcome everyone into the compassion of God’s love that Christ proclaimed.

Article written by Cori Fugere Urban,
Vermont Catholic content editor/staff writer.
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