In June of 2021, the Canons Regular of St. John Cantius participated in two walking pilgrimages from Wonewoc, Wisconsin to the Shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe in La Crosse, Wisconsin. During two separate weeks, one for young men and one for young women, the pilgrim groups traversed the beautiful Wisconsin countryside for five days and beheld the majestic Wisconsin bluffs along the popular Elroy-Sparta and La Crosse river trails.
Led by Father Nathan Caswell and assisted by Father David Yallaly and Brothers Kevin, Mateusz, and Quinn; as well as additional adult chaperones, the pilgrims were given a wonderful opportunity to experience the grace of God and the beauty of creation in the context of a walking pilgrimage.
38 young men the first week and 47 girls the second week each walked a 75 mile path that took them through crushed gravel walking trails, asphalt roads, concrete sidewalks, and three former train tunnels. One of the tunnels was three quarters of a mile in length!
At the end of each day the groups would camp out in a local campground, prepare dinner, relax, and retire for the night in preparation for the next day’s journey. Each day the groups would participate in the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, with the final Mass being celebrated at the main altar at the Shrine in La Crosse on Friday underneath the beautiful baldacchino.
It was a difficult yet rewarding pilgrimage. The pilgrims encountered near 100-degree temperatures and a very intense thunder and lightning storm but both groups remained steadfast and made it to their destination safe and sound in spite of blisters, sweat, and sunburns.
The Blessed Mother had the last word. Our Lady’s words of comfort to Juan Diego, spoken 500 years earlier, were there for the weary pilgrims to behold inscribed upon the walls of the shrine Church on their way out: “Am I not here, I who am your Mother?”
Our Lady of Guadalupe, pray for us!