I apologize for the Radio Silence last week, well unless you follow my twitter feed or to the right, as I was on pilgrimage.
Sadly, no, not to Compestello or Guadalupe, but right here in the Archdiocese of Cincinnati.
Last summer, two seminarians wanted to get to know the diocese better, so they spent two weeks visiting parishes and walking up then back across the diocese (they got rides, too.)
Their journey inspired a young lady who is discering a religious vocation to do the same thing, only with a group of teens, and since it was to be vocation oriented, I was recruited to go along.
To say I was skeptical (it's my nature) is an understatement, but I have returned with a new appreciation for what our teens can do.
(To read thoughts from the teens as to why they were doing this, see Emily's blog at Unshakeable Hope, pictures, too.)
On July 3rd, ten teens (5 boys, 5 girls from around the Cincinnati area), four other adult chaperones (2 seminarians, 2 young women (both current or former chastity educators)), and I spent the day on retreat preparing for our walk. Most gathered for Mass at St. Gertrude Church in Madiera, where the Eastern Province of the Dominicans have their novitiate. Turns out, their Vocation Director was also in town and gave a great talk on the call to holiness. As the afternoon got later, we jumped on a small tour bus and rode to the Spiritual Center of Maria Stein, roughly 120 miles from Cincinnati (near Sidney, Ohio.) After dinner and a holy hour, a few last minute details and time to bunk down.
To explain how the walking worked, the bus stayed with us all week to transport gear and keep water and gatorade cold. A group would leave walking, and the bus would go up three miles or so. When that group would get there, a new group would set out. Sometimes, walkers would continue, sometimes they would jump on the bus. Sometimes, to make up time, the next group left as soon as the bus pulled up to the three mile mark, etc. It played out more smoothly than I anticipated.
July 4th began the walk and we visited Holy Redeemer, New Bremen; St. Augustine, Minster (with a quick visit from my sister!); St. Michael's, Fort Loramie; and concluded at St. Remy, Russia. 20+ miles of walking. We ended with a cookout out a local family's house, where they even let us have showers! (stay tuned for next shower update....) We bunked down in the parish hall, first night of 'floor sleeping.' As one of the seminarians said: 'Father, I thought my time of sleeping on the floor in a bag was over.' I agreed, but sleep came relatively quickly after all that walking. Some had blisters already, legs were sore, but spirits remained high, as they would all week.
July 5th was a long day: St. Remy to St. Boniface, Piqua (newly renovated/restored, and it looks better in person than pictures), to St. Patrick, Troy, to St. John the Baptist, Tipp City. By the time was got there, my legs were really sore, but I thought I could keep going. I was wrong.
July 6th, Tipp to St. Chris in Vandalia, 6 miles. I did the 2nd shift, and it turned out to be my last. By this point, my left shin was in piercing pain and I stumbled around during Mass. The other adults bussed me for the rest of the day, thinking I would be better tomorrow.... The walking continued to St. Peter's, Huber Heights and on to St. Barbara, Byzantine Chapel and Holy Family, Dayton, a parish assigned to the Priestly Fraternity and dedicated to the Extraordinary Form of the Mass. These two stops really helped broaden some of the teens understanding of the 'catholicity' of the Church present in the Archdiocese of Cincinnati and provided great fodder over the next few sessions of walking about priestly celibacy, the nature of Mass and worship, Latin in the liturgy, etc. As a fellow chaperone quipped: 'I didn't know I needed a Ph.D. in Theology to be on this trip!' so deep were the questions being asked, and worked out, by the teens. From there, we made it down to St. Charles Borommeo, Kettering.to eat and spend the night, another long day, but another close w/ a Holy Hour, nursing sore blisters, knees and ankles, and quickly falling to sleep.
July 7th, I taped up my shin, hoping it would be better. It swelled up in protest, to the point I couldn't see my ankle, staying on the bus..... We left St. Charles after Mass and headed down to St. Francis of Assisi, Centerville. From there, to Our Lady of Good Hope, Miamisburg and St. Augustine's, Germantown (up a massive hill, too. The bus barely made it, they prayed a rosary up the ascent, taking only two decades.) Sadly, St. Augustine's was locked up like Ft. Knox, we still prayed, reflected and then hit the road to Holy Family, Middletown, where we were welcomed by their Thursday night Bocce League. We joined them for food, conversation and an explanation of just what exactly we were doing before heading in to Church for another Holy Hour. Luckily, we had reinforcements to help in the walking: one chaperone's boyfriend and a local youth minister heard us on the radio and wanted to walk, too. It was greatly appreciated.
July 8th, Friday, red shirts for the Passion, still a swollen ankle. The YM returned to walk a few shifts again this morning as we went from Middletown to Our Lady of Sorrows, Monroe, for Mass. (While we were welcomed everywhere we went, OLSorrows was particularly gracious in their hosting us for Mass.) From there, St. Max in Liberty Township for lunch, to Dr. Martin Haskell's new place in Sharonville. (He developed the partial-birth abortion procedure and has opened a new abortuary, we felt it important for the teens to stop there, too.) A quick jaunt to St. Michael's in Sharonville prior to stopping at Sts. Peter and Paul in Reading for dinner, Holy Hour, and sleep. This was the next place showers were available, and I (who wasn't walking at all) was the only one to take advantage. Luckily, we had more 'fill-in' adult walkers to help, too. By this point, we couldn't smell our own stink, but I think I saw paint peeling from walls of places we stopped....
July 9th, blue shirts for the Blessed Mother, saw us complete our walking: Sts. Peter and Paul, to St. Cecilia, Oakley for Mass and breakfast, to Immaculata in Mt. Adams to Old St. Mary's for lunch, to st. Francis Seraph for a visit with the Franciscans, and finally concluded at St. Lawrence, Price Hill where we joined their festival for dinner and a quick visit in the Church. More fill-ins helped spell the adults who were present, too. We drove to the Holy Spirit Center to sleep (AND SHOWER!!!!!), and of course, one last Holy Hour.
Sunday, we visited St. Francis Xavier, downtown and St. Louis, downtown, prior to Mass at the Cathedral. Lunch, and a return to St. Gertrude's to send them back to their parents, and for the adults to collapse!
That's our itinerary, I'll keep posting more reflections through the rest of the week. 150 miles, total. I did maybe 20 before being sidelined. The teens all walked between 50 and 120 miles out of the 150. They were awesome in how they lifted each other up, supported when they needed breaks and prayed, sang, conversed along the way. As far as I know, not one argument in 7 days of pretty intense physical stress. God truly was with us.