Saturday, May 1, will be a memorable day for more than 2,000 people representing 31 states. They will participate in the eighth “Walk to Mary” from the National Shrine of St. Joseph in De Pere to the National Shrine of Our Lady of Good Help in Champion. The entire walk travels more than 20 miles, but there are other, shorter distances for families with children.
Last year’s Walk to Mary was canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and Patrick Deprey, one of the event’s founders, said people are anxious and excited to resume the prayerful walk to Champion, where a closing Mass will be celebrated.
“What I’m seeing, and what Fr. Rocky (Hoffman, from Relevant Radio) tells me, is that people are just looking for God,” Deprey told The Compass. “They are hopeful people. There are so many things that are going on in their lives. There are a lot of prayer requests that we’ve never heard before.”
While about 2,000 people have officially registered as of April 26, Deprey said he expects about 2,500 people will walk. Around 80% of them will walk the entire route.
The Walk to Mary attracts participants from around the country. Even those who can’t travel to Green Bay are looking for ways to honor the Blessed Mother. This growth in popularity led walk organizers to pilot a “Walk to Mary Across America” this year. According to Deprey, two walks, one in Reno, Nev., and one in San Francisco, will take place Saturday morning.
“After this year, I’ve got a feeling it will get bigger,” Deprey said about this new initiative. “It’s taking shape and the Blessed Mother is guiding us.”
During the hours-long walk, participants focus on prayer — sometimes silent and sometimes communal, such as groups reciting the rosary together. As the world moves slowly out of the shadows of the COVID-19 pandemic, there will be many prayer intentions on the minds of those who walk. Those of us not participating in Saturday’s Walk to Mary may want to pause for a few minutes during the day and join our prayers with theirs.
We can first offer a prayer of safety for all of those on the walking trail from De Pere to Champion. It’s not an easy trek , especially for those not in the habit of long-distance walking. In addition, Deprey said there has been an increase in the number of people with physical disabilities who plan to walk this year.
We can also offer a prayer of thanksgiving. After last year’s walk was canceled due to the pandemic, it is a hopeful sign that people of faith, while still mindful of the coronavirus and cautious in their interactions with others, can safely participate in an outdoor event. No doubt, many participants in the walk will have already received their vaccinations. That in itself is a reason for giving thanks.
As our parishes look to ease restrictions put in place due to the pandemic, we can offer prayers for a safe return to worship and divine guidance in the process of welcoming people to church. As a nation, our prayers for overcoming divisiveness should also be a priority. Much has happened in the past year that requires dialogue and healing. Asking the Blessed Mother for her intercession in overcoming the woundedness of political, racial and other divides would be an especially poignant request.
May these and other prayer intentions help make for a successful Walk to Mary on May 1.