St. Louis, Mo., Aug 17, 2023 / 14:15 pm (CNA).
A new initiative from the Diocese of Lincoln, Nebraska, aims to bring pilgrims to every corner of the state to visit its many adoration chapels.
Dubbed the “Eucharistic Passport Pilgrimage,” the diocesan initiative is modeled after the Nebraska Passport, a project of the Nebraska Tourism Commission designed to encourage exploration of the state’s various attractions.
“The Nebraska Passport Program has been a very popular way to promote Nebraska and its beautiful sites. It is my hope and prayer that our diocesan Eucharistic Passport Pilgrimage will offer an opportunity for thousands of Nebraskans to make a spiritual pilgrimage across our state,” Bishop James Conley wrote in a recent column announcing the new initiative.
“I pray that this might be an occasion of true encounter with our eucharistic Lord, hidden in the Blessed Sacrament and an opportunity for true renewal and revival for our eucharistic Lord. And, like the Nebraska Passport Program, [that] we might be inspired to travel across our beautiful state in a spirit of prayer and gratitude.”
The Lincoln Diocese encompasses a large and mostly rural swath of southern Nebraska that stretches from the Missouri River in the east to the border with Colorado. Catholics make up about 94,000 of the diocese’s population of 621,000. The diocese spans nearly 25,000 square miles of territory and 134 total parishes, according to the diocese.
Conley told CNA that in creating the new passport program, he was inspired by his own love of pilgrimages. Over the years, Conley has walked portions of the Camino de Santiago on three different occasions and this summer walked St. Cuthbert’s Way, a Catholic pilgrimage in northern England near the Scottish border. Conley has been open in recent years about the ways that pilgrimages have helped him greatly with his spiritual, emotional, and mental health.
The idea for the passport, Conley said, is to lead pilgrims to 17 designated eucharistic adoration chapels in Nebraska and offer the pilgrims a stamp on their passport to prove that they went there. Conley said they plan to offer a prize of some sort for any pilgrims who visit all 17 locations (though what exactly the prize will be has yet to be determined).
Conley said he hopes pilgrims will visit the adoration chapels and pray specifically for their intentions as part of the National Eucharistic Revival, a three-year initiative by the U.S. bishops that aims to inspire, educate, and unite the faithful in a more intimate relationship with Jesus in the Eucharist.
Conley said central to the passport project is sharing the importance of visiting and adoring Christ in person.
“We live in such a digitized virtual world, especially since the pandemic years … Anytime we can get away from our screens and out into God’s beautiful creation, whether it’s on a walking pilgrimage, or up in the mountains, or on the beach, or any time we have contact with the really ‘real,’ it’s a remedy for this world, which is becoming more and more in our head,” the bishop said.
Father Christopher Eckrich, diocesan master of ceremonies and Conley’s priest secretary, told CNA that they hope to provide pilgrims with a true sense of “adventure” with the passport program.
“[Visiting all 17 sites] might be harder than people think,” Eckrich said via email.
“People will have to be strategic as adoration is not offered every day in some places. So, people will only be able to get their stamps on certain days — which will add to the adventure! It’s really about creating a pilgrimage environment for people to discover the beautiful adoration chapels, and churches in our diocese, and go visit places they never would have visited before. And the arduousness adds to the excitement upon its completion.”
The passports debuted after Masses the weekend of Aug. 12-13 throughout the Diocese of Lincoln. The passports include informational literature about the 17 designated sites and a map indicating the locations.
The passports will remain available for anyone to pick up in the back of churches across the Lincoln Diocese for the next year, Eckrich said. (If a parish runs out, it can request more from the chancery, he said.)
Shannon Mullen contributed to this story.
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