LA Catholics travel the path of St. Junípero Serra in second annual pilgrimage

Over 200 pilgrims gathered on July 23 to walk the 35 miles between Mission Santa Barbara and Mission San Buenaventura for the second annual St. Junípero Serra Walking Pilgrimage.

The two-day pilgrimage is the brainchild of Greg Wood, a parishioner at Mission Basilica San Buenaventura, along with his wife Mary. He launched the first year last year as an “opportunity for a public testimony of our faith and goodness of our beloved… ‘Father of California.'”

“In view of all the desecrations of [St. Junípero’s] statues…and the slander of his character and good works, I felt compelled to publicly honor St. Junípero Serra…by organizing a walking pilgrimage that literally followed in the footsteps of the saint,” said Greg. “This would allow us to continue the Saint’s mission to evangelize California.”

Pilgrims carried flags and banners with the image of Saint Junípero. (Courtesy of St. Junípero Serra Walking Pilgrimage Facebook)

The first pilgrimage attracted more than 150 people. This year their numbers were even higher. Some Franciscans of Renewal joined the pilgrimage, providing music along the way with guitars, drums and fiddles.

“There is something really powerful about walking directly in the footsteps of this saint … especially as a Franciscan friar to be able to follow in the footsteps of one of the brethren who have gone before us,” Brother Sean Paul Wood said. CFR who had flown in from the Bronx to join the pilgrimage. “The kingdom [was] unleashed on State Street in Santa Barbara.”

Pilgrims gathered at the Santa Barbara Mission Saturday morning for a Mass concelebrated by several LA priests, some from Denver and one from Portland. Father Dan Lackie, a monk at the Santa Barbara Mission, blessed the pilgrims before sending them on their way.

(Courtesy of St. Junípero Serra Walking Pilgrimage Facebook)

The pilgrimage meandered through downtown Santa Barbara, past the ocean, along the boardwalk, through Montecito and Summerland, ending stage one with dinner at St. Joseph Church in Carpentaria. After the Holy Hour and confessions, the pilgrims pitched their tents to rest for the second day of hiking.

On Sunday, pilgrims used cycle and pedestrian paths along the coast, following in the footsteps of St. Serra. As this is a jubilee year in the Archdiocese of Los Angeles, pilgrims had a special chance to earn a plenary indulgence by walking through the sacred doors of the Missionary Basilica of San Buenaventura.

The pilgrims concluded their journey around 6:00 p.m. Sunday evening with a Mass and dinner hosted by the Knights of Columbus. “When we got to the last leg, we sang, we danced, we walked down Main Street to the mission, and the bells started ringing,” Brother Sean Paul said. Another pilgrim, Ed Gonzalez, “broke down in tears” when he finally completed all 35 miles. “I could not believe it. They weren’t tears because I was glad the 35 miles were over, they were tears of joy that I got to experience [this] and offer this sacrifice with all present and tears of sadness that we were done.”

(Courtesy of St. Junípero Serra Walking Pilgrimage Facebook)

It was a moving journey for the participants, but also for the people they met, he said. Once a woman stopped the brothers and asked what they were doing. When Brother Sean Paul told her about the pilgrimage, he said, “She just burst into tears.”

“Deep down, people want something to live for, something to celebrate,” he said. The pilgrimage “was a microcosm of life, of pilgrims striving toward heaven. We’re in this together. ”

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