‘It’s Filled Me With So Much Hope’: National Eucharistic Pilgrimage Passes Through Wisconsin

The Marian Route of the pilgrimage began in May in northern Minnesota.

The Marian Route of the National Eucharist Pilgrimage passes through Kenosha, Wisconsin, on Wednesday, June 26, 2024.
The Marian Route of the National Eucharist Pilgrimage passes through Kenosha, Wisconsin, on Wednesday, June 26, 2024. (photo: EWTN News)

Bells chimed in the city of Kenosha, Wisconsin, this week, marking the entrance of Jesus in the Eucharist into the southeastern corner of the state.

The light of the overcast evening was fading as pilgrims gathered for a Holy Hour of Eucharistic adoration on Tuesday at St. Peter’s Catholic Church, a parish community founded 126 years ago by Polish and Lithuanian immigrants.

The small city, just on the edge of Lake Michigan, welcomed the Eucharist for a Holy Hour and procession as part of the northeastern route of the National Eucharistic Pilgrimage. 

A pilgrim knelt on the concrete sidewalk as a priest with a humeral veil wrapped around his shoulders retrieved the Eucharist from the small, makeshift altar that turned the pilgrimage van into an intimate chapel.

The van has carried Jesus across the United States in a monstrance since the Marian Route of the pilgrimage began in May in northern Minnesota.

The humeral veil, an embroidered cloak that clasps at the chest, allows the priest to hold the monstrance with veiled hands, not touching the sacred vessel that carries his Lord, so that it is not the hands of the priest that rise in blessing over the people but Christ’s presence in the Eucharist.

A deacon swung the golden censer, incense mixing with the gentle chant that hovered in the air over the entrance of St. Peter’s. A golden crucifix marked the beginning of the short procession into the Church, first passing by an image of Divine Mercy, Christ’s hand on his heart with red and silver light shining out, then entering the expectant church.

The following day, the pilgrims gathered for an early Mass at St. Peter’s in the morning and then processed almost four miles, stopping at parish churches along the way.

The procession trailed along the sidewalks of Kenosha. A young girl was pulled in a wagon by her mother as her siblings trekked ahead.

“The number of different ways I’ve seen people come and pour out their love for God — that’s the part where I get so emotional,” event organizer Margaret Rhody of the Archdiocese of Milwaukee told “EWTN News Nightly” correspondent Owen Jensen, who reported on the Kenosha part of the pilgrimage. 

The hum of prayer and song and the trill of ringing bells resonated as the processors passed through neighborhood streets, by front lawns, and along crosswalks.

“It’s been such a blessing,” said Matthew Heidenreich, a young “perpetual pilgrim” who has been on the pilgrimage since it started. 

“I get to watch revival happening in front of me,” he said. “It’s filled me with so much hope just to see the way that people are responding to the pilgrims and responding to Jesus Christ.”

“The Eucharist is the body and blood of Jesus Christ,” he said. “People who come to church can be receiving him — to feed your soul.”

When asked what it meant to her, an older woman who attended the procession said it gave her “great pleasure and peace.” 

The golden monstrance was the only sun on the gray morning, a sunburst of gold pursued by those pilgrims who gave up their Wednesday morning to walk with the Lord through their city. 

When asked what it meant for him to be a part of the procession, a middle-aged man explained that it was about expressing his faith with his community. 

“I think it means being a part of a community, being part of a family, exercising my faith, trying to show not just myself but my family as well that this is something that’s important,” he said. 

“Bishops along the routes have just uttered surprise at how many people have come out for processions, for Masses, for confession, for adoration, but also service to the poor,” Bishop Donald Hying of Madison told “EWTN News Nightly” in reference to the pilgrimages across the nation. 

Hying told “EWTN News Nightly” that for anyone who struggles with the Real Presence — the belief that the Eucharist is the body, blood, soul, and divinity of Jesus Christ — he suggests going back to John chapter 6, the Eucharistic discourse. 

“He makes this extraordinary promise that those who eat of his flesh and drink his blood will live forever,” Hying said. “So, the Eucharist for us is this great antidote to eternal death.”