‘Perpetual Pilgrims’ Carry the Nation’s Prayer Intentions on the Road

The National Eucharistic Pilgrimage’s organizers want to ‘gather up the needs and intentions of the people of God’ — including your own.

Matthew Heidenreich, one of the National Eucharistic Pilgrimage’s Perpetual Pilgrims, walks in pray along the headwaters of the Mississippi River at the May 19 start of the Marian Route. Heidenreich and 22 other young adults will be praying on behalf of Catholics across the country on the two-month journey to Indianapolis. (Photo: Gianna Bonello)

ITASCA STATE PARK, Minn. — There may only be 23 of them, but the “Perpetual Pilgrims” currently embarked on the National Eucharistic Pilgrimage (NEP) are hoping to lift-up the hopes and desires of thousands of Catholics across the country—including yours.

That’s because intercessory prayer, the practice of praying on behalf of others, is a big part of these young adults’ mission, which began on May 19 with the launch of four pilgrimage routes to Indianapolis from the north, west, east and south. 

And as they crisscross the nation with the Blessed Sacrament over the next two months, these Perpetual Pilgrims will be collecting the specific intercessions of Catholics throughout the United States, interceding for the nation every step of the way.

“It’s one of the biggest gifts of this summer,” Danielle Schmitz, a Perpetual Pilgrim, told the Register, just moments before taking her first steps along the Marian Route, the pilgrimage path originating at the headwaters of the Mississippi River in northern Minnesota.

Schmitz shared that she is carrying the intentions of about 100 family members and friends with her on the road. 

“They really are spiritually walking this pilgrimage with me.”

Before the Perpetual Pilgrims dedicated to the Marian Route began their journey, several of the 2,000 Catholics who had joined them for the day’s Pentecost Mass and opening procession approached the group and asked them to pray for their specific intentions.

“I’ve been writing them down, and my fellow pilgrims have also been writing down these intentions,” shared Kai Weiss, another Perpetual Pilgrim. “And we really will pray with them on this journey.”


‘For the Whole Church’

Tim Glemkowski, the executive director of National Eucharistic Congress, Inc., said that organizers have always seen the pilgrimage and the upcoming congress in Indianapolis as having a “spiritual impact … for more than those who attend in person.”

 And the Perpetual Pilgrims put this principle of spiritual mediation in action. 

Only a couple dozen young adults were selected to walk the entirety of the pilgrimage, with six apiece designated to the Marian, Seton, Juan Diego, and Serra Routes. But by acting as intercessors during their two months on the road, Glemkowski said the Perpetual Pilgrims “stand in proxy for the whole Church” in a powerful way.

“With each step they journey with Jesus in the Eucharist, they offer difficulty, suffering and struggle on behalf of the Church in the United States and these particular intercessions,” Glemkowski told the Register. “All authentic renewal is a work of God and is preceded by this kind of fervent, travailing intercession.”

That means no blister, bug bite or missed summer-vacation opportunity endured will be in vain, but will serve as a spiritual offering the Perpetual Pilgrims can make on behalf of those who’ve asked for their prayers.

Schmitz, a theology and philosophy major at The Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C., described praying for others while on pilgrimage with the Eucharist as “a powerful form of intercession,” similar to how the saints intercede for the faithful in God’s heavenly throne room.

“We get to just come right before him and lay at his feet the intentions of the nation and just ask him to hear them and to fulfill these prayers and desires in the ways that his perfect will wants to,” the California native told the Register.

The Perpetual Pilgrims’ intercessory role is part of their broader service to the Church, which also includes the missionary witness they’ll make to those they meet along the way.

“We’re not processing with Jesus across the country for our own gain, but really so that every single person who comes across the pilgrimage has a radical encounter with Jesus that changes their life,” explained Schmitz.



Submitting Intentions

Glemkowski said that organizers want to “gather up the needs and intentions of the people of God so that this pilgrimage is an act of prayer, fasting and reparation on their behalf.”

And if you weren’t at the send-offs of the four NEP routes, don’t worry — there are still plenty of opportunities to have the Perpetual Pilgrims pray for your intentions as they walk to Indianapolis for the National Eucharistic Congress, which begins July 17.

Participants at the hundreds of stops along the pilgrimage’s routes still to come will be able to fill out prayer-intention forms for the pilgrims to pray with.

Additionally, the van the Perpetual Pilgrims will take in between walking segments of the route is also equipped to be something of a portable prayer-request station.

As Perpetual Pilgrim Matthew Heidenreich demonstrated for the Register, scanning a QR code in the van’s window will take users to a website where they can enter their specific prayer intentions, anonymously if they prefer. 

Or, interested Catholics can just go to the website directly to submit their own “prayer intentions to be carried on the National Eucharistic Pilgrimage.”

Three days into the pilgrimage, Glemkowski told the Register that “almost 1,000” intentions have already been received. Some Catholics have taken to social media to express their gratitude for the creative opportunity to have their hopes and desires lifted up along the pilgrimage routes.

“Thank you so much for this site so my prayers and intentions will be prayed for on this trip with Our Lord and God in the Blessed Sacrament,” said one Twitter user. “I can’t go on this wonderful trip, but I am praying for all who are going. God bless you.”


Personal Desires

Of course, the Perpetual Pilgrims are also traveling with their own personal intentions.

Weiss, a graduate student at the Dominican House of Studies in Washington, D.C., is praying that his love for the Eucharist will grow, but also that the deeply polarized United States can experience healing and unification around the Eucharist.

“I’m not from here, but I love this country so much,” explained the native of Regensburg, Germany, who first came to the U.S. three years ago for graduate studies.

Bishop Andrew Cozzens of the Diocese of Crookston, Minnesota, joined the Marian Route’s pilgrims for their first two days on the road, which included a 5-mile hike through Itasca State Park and a 12-mile journey between the Minnesota towns of Laporte and Bemidji. He told the Register that he was praying for spiritual renewal in his diocese and for the success of the National Eucharistic Congress.

“That’s what a pilgrim does,” said Bishop Cozzens, who is the U.S. bishops’ leader of the National Eucharistic Revival. “You bring your intercessions, and you ask for deeper conversion.”


Receiving Strength

Weiss has made a number of pilgrimages in his native Bavaria, including a two-day, 75-mile walk to the shrine of Our Lady of Altötting. 

But just before setting out on the Marian Route, he acknowledged that he felt a bit “incapable” for the journey ahead — not physically, but in terms of the spiritual responsibility of shouldering the prayers of a nation.

But just as the Perpetual Pilgrims are praying for others, the aspiring theologian expressed his gratitude for all of those who are spiritually supporting the young band of travelers. 

He described the experience of celebrating Pentecost Sunday Mass and processing with so many faithful before the start of the Marian Route “as very strengthening,” adding that he was encouraged by the number of people who told him they would be praying for the pilgrims throughout their journey to Indianapolis.

Schmitz also said that she wouldn’t be able to make the journey ahead without the support of so many people who are praying for her and all of the Perpetual Pilgrims.

Ultimately, the group knows that if the road ahead will be spiritually fruitful for themselves and those for whom they’re praying, it will be through Christ’s strength, not their own.

Said Weiss, “I trust that we’re giving ourselves for these two months, and he’ll hopefully do what is necessary.” 

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