Thousands of Catholics could take part in a pilgrimage with over 50 stops in the Milwaukee area. Here's what to know.

Catholic seminarians and priests lead a Eucharistic procession during the Archdiocese of Milwaukee's Eucharistic Congress in 2022, a gathering to mark the beginning of a multi-year initiative to renew interest in devotion to the Eucharist.
Catholic seminarians and priests lead a Eucharistic procession during the Archdiocese of Milwaukee's Eucharistic Congress in 2022, a gathering to mark the beginning of a multi-year initiative to renew interest in devotion to the Eucharist.

Organizers expect potentially thousands of Catholics in southeast Wisconsin to take part in processions, Masses and other events as a national pilgrimage focused on renewing interest in the Eucharist weaves through the region.

The pilgrimage will stop at over 50 Catholic parishes in the Archdiocese of Milwaukee from Tuesday to June 26. It's coming from the north — the first stop will be in Kiel — and will continue south to Kenosha.

It's part of the National Eucharistic Pilgrimage, in which faithful from across the country are walking along four routes to converge in Indianapolis for a major gathering centered on the Catholic sacrament of communion.

Here's what to know about the pilgrimage as it passes through the Milwaukee area.

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What is the National Eucharistic Pilgrimage?

National organizers told the Associated Press that the pilgrimage, and the National Eucharistic Congress set for Lucas Oil Stadium, are the first since 1941.

Pilgrims set off in May from four routes around the country with stops planned at churches and shrines along the way to Indianapolis. The pilgrims passing through Milwaukee are traveling on the Marian route, which began in northern Minnesota.

Hundreds of pilgrims take part in a procession in Hanover, Pennsylvania. It was one segment of a several-mile walk between churches as part of a National Eucharistic Pilgrimage, Tuesday, June 4, 2024.
Hundreds of pilgrims take part in a procession in Hanover, Pennsylvania. It was one segment of a several-mile walk between churches as part of a National Eucharistic Pilgrimage, Tuesday, June 4, 2024.

While a handful of people are traveling the entire route, local parishioners are expected to take part in processions along shorter segments of the route. In the Milwaukee area, those processions range in length from a quarter-mile to over six miles. They will take place on sidewalks and trails and are not expected to close any roads.

Organizers have scheduled stops at five to 10 parishes each day, with stops as short as 15 minutes, and longer for prayer services, Masses and service projects.

In the processions, worshippers will follow a priest who carries a monstrance, a "sunburst-patterned vessel that displays the host, or bread wafer consecrated by a priest at Mass," the Associated Press reports.

When will the National Eucharistic Pilgrimage pass through the Milwaukee area?

The pilgrimage crosses into the northern edge of the Milwaukee archdiocese on Tuesday in Kiel. It reaches Waukesha on Thursday, and it will be in the city of Milwaukee and its suburbs through June 24. By June 25 and 26, it will be in Racine and Kenosha.

Find a list of pilgrimage stops organized by date here: archmil.org/Pilgrimage/stops.

And find a detailed schedule with times and locations here: tinyurl.com/4sxedjej.

Organizers ask that pilgrims bring water and snacks and wear comfortable shoes and clothes appropriate for the weather. Registration for specific events is optional, but preferred, to give organizers an estimate on attendance.

What are some noteworthy stops as the pilgrimage passes through the Milwaukee area?

June 21: A four-mile, two-hour procession along the Waukesha Christmas Parade route, beginning at St. William Catholic Church about 8:45 a.m.

June 22: Tours of Kinship Community Food Center, formerly the Riverwest Food Pantry, as well as Mass and a prayer service, beginning at 7 a.m., at Our Lady of Divine Providence - St. Casimir.

June 23: Mass at the Cathedral of St. John the Evangelist downtown, followed by a 6.7-mile Eucharistic procession through Milwaukee's south side and Bay View neighborhoods, with stops at four parishes, ending at the St. Francis de Sales Seminary in St. Francis.

Milwaukee Archbishop Jerome Listecki holds a monstrance, a vessel which contains a consecrated host, during a Eucharistic procession in 2022.
Milwaukee Archbishop Jerome Listecki holds a monstrance, a vessel which contains a consecrated host, during a Eucharistic procession in 2022.

What is the significance of the pilgrimage?

A goal of the pilgrimage is to bring more awareness of the Catholic doctrine that Jesus is literally present in the consecrated bread and wine worshippers consume at Mass.

"As a result, the consecrated host becomes an object of devotion," the Associated Press reports. Devotees may sing and pray in processions and in prayer services scheduled throughout the pilgrimage. National organizers have said the processions aren't political marches.

Margaret Rhody, associate director for parish renewal for the archdiocese and an organizer of the local pilgrimage events, said she hopes the pilgrims' experience echoes Biblical stories of Jesus healing crowds of followers.

"It's a little bit like the closest we get to being able to follow him in his earthly ministry if we had been alive" at the same time as Jesus, Rhody said.

Rhody hopes the experiences touches both devout Catholics and people seeking a deeper faith.

"God is here for them in this procession," she said. "We're just really praying that they would experience God's personal love for them, and that would awaken faith in them."

How does this factor into the broader "eucharistic revival" effort?

The pilgrimage stems from deliberations in 2021 among U.S. bishops on whether to refuse communion to politicians who support abortion rights, according to the Associated Press. The bishops stopped short of banning politicians such as President Joe Biden from the sacrament, but they expressed concern that too many Catholics don't understand or believe the church's teachings on communion.

The pilgrimage, and the National Eucharistic Congress in Indianapolis, are the culmination of the second year of work in a three-year-long initiative called the National Eucharistic Revival.

The initiative is a time of "praying for God to bring revival to faith across our country, and then growing in our faith and growing in how to share it with others," Rhody said.

The effort to evangelize comes as Catholic churches around the country struggle with declining and aging membership. Dioceses in cities such as Baltimore, Buffalo and Chicago, have consolidated and closed parishes recently, and a number of Milwaukee-area parishes have announced mergers as well. It's part of Americans' broader, years-long shift away from regular Sunday worship and organized religion.

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This article originally appeared on Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: What to know about the National Eucharistic Pilgrimage near Milwaukee

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