Walking pilgrimages: A tradition renewed at shrine

By | August 11, 2011

Pilgrimages to religious places, whether by bus or by foot, have seen a resurgence in recent years. People dealing with serious issues in their life, whether health, finances or family problems, seek to encounter the holy and they come to places like the Shrine of Our Lady of Good Help to do that.

During the month of June, the Shrine of Our Lady of Good Help saw two walking pilgrimages. The first was organized by Fr. Joel Sember, administrator of three Catholic churches in Oconto, Stiles and Oconto Falls. Fr. Sember journeyed with seven women for the majority of 50 miles from Oconto. They stayed in Little Suamico, Suamico, Annunciation Church in Green Bay and Holy Cross Church in Bay Settlement. After five days of walking, the group arrived in Champion. They were joined by parishioners who were only able to walk for a few days.

The second group started in Round Lake, Ill., and was headed by Fr. Tim O’Malley. He was joined by a priest-classmate and a 78-year-old Hispanic man, among others, who made the pilgrimage in six days. They walked 28-35 miles each day and stayed at hotels and other locations along the way.

The summer staff of Catholic Youth Expeditions also made the walking pilgrimage from St. Joseph’s Formation Center in Baileys Harbor. All the groups walked with a specific purpose: to carry their own prayer petitions and those that had been entrusted to them by others. Walking pilgrimages to the Shrine of Our Lady of Good Help have been done in the past. According to a Feb. 9, 2011, Compass article, Roberto Gallegos walks the 17 miles from Green Bay each year in mid-July. In 2003, Martin Torres, Rigoberto Moreno, and five others walked to Champion for the annual Aug. 15 Mass and rosary procession for the feast of the Assumption.

With the increased interest in the Shrine of Our Lady of Good Help, other pilgrims may consider the walking pilgrimage. Years ago, walking to the shrine was the only mode of transportation for many. It provides a unique experience and to some makes their arrival more meaningful since this was the same area that Adele Brise would have walked on her way to Mass the day she received her apparition in 1859.

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