Fifth annual Walk to Mary held May 6

ALLOUEZ — The fifth annual Walk to Mary — a 21-mile walking pilgrimage that begins at Old St. Joe’s Church on the St. Norbert College campus in De Pere (home of the National Shrine of St. Joseph) and ends at the National Shrine of Our Lady of Good Help in Champion — was held May 6.

Young Walk to Mary pilgrims wave to passersby as they walk across the Claude Allouez Bridge in De Pere May 6. The walk began at Old St. Joseph Church, seen in the background. (Sam Lucero | The Compass)

According to organizers, more than 1,000 people from around Wisconsin and beyond participated in the walking pilgrimage. Among the participants at this year’s event were Peter and Phan Nguyen, members of St. Columba Parish in St. Paul, Minn. The Vietnamese-American couple began the walk at Old St. Joe’s Church, but planned to take a bus to Champion at the first stop. They were the last two pilgrims to cross the Claude Allouez Bridge in De Pere.

Phan said this was her second time on the Walk to Mary. Peter, who relied on a cane to help him walk, said it was his first pilgrimage. “I heard that people say that this Mary makes a lot of miracles for the people,” said Peter, when asked why he chose to participate. “That’s why I believe it and I come to see. … They say that the people out there praying and they go home and they recover.”

Peter and Phan Nguyen, members of St. Columba Parish in St. Paul, Minn., participate in the Walk to Mary May 6. (Sam Lucero | The Compass)

Pat Deprey, event organizer, said Walk to Mary participants often have personal stories about why they attend the event. This year, he learned about a woman from Chicago who was making her second Walk to Mary. While removing stones from her shoes at a restroom and water refill station, the woman told two nurses at the station that she brought her son to Green Bay to walk with her last year.

Two months ago, her son, 21, died in a car accident and she chose to walk alone and pray for her son. “She said she was so blessed by her son willing to go with her last year and they completed the walk,” said Deprey. The woman told the nurses, “Now he’s in heaven praying for me and I’m here praying for him.”

Deprey said he expects the final count of walkers to surpass last year’s number of 1,023. Between 50 to 75 people signed up on the day of the walk, he said.