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What does a National Eucharistic Pilgrimage boat procession look like?

Father Michael Thiel, diocesan chaplain for the National Eucharistic Pilgrimage, is joined by perpetual pilgrims on a pontoon boat on Shawano Lake near Cecil, Wis., during a one-hour Eucharistic boat procession June 12, 2024. The perpetual pilgrims disembarked the boat and walked to Camp Tekakwitha a youth summer camp owned by the Diocese of Green Bay, where they spent the evening. (OSV News photo/Sam Lucero)

CECIL, Wis. (OSV News) — After covering hundreds of miles by land since their May 19 launch, young adults traveling the National Eucharistic Pilgrimage’s Marian Route participated in a Eucharistic procession by water June 12 on a popular resort lake 30 miles northwest of Green Bay.

Around 300 Catholics from the Diocese of Green Bay greeted them at St. Martin of Tours Church in Cecil, a village on the shore of Shawano Lake, a popular fishing, boating and recreation destination. It was the second stop in the pilgrims’ seven-day trek through the diocese with the Eucharist.

After welcoming the perpetual pilgrims and the Eucharistic Lord, Deacon Todd Raether, Martin of Tours’ pastoral coordinator, led a procession into the church for a Holy Hour that included songs, Scripture readings and adoration.

Following the Holy Hour, a walking procession from the church through the 500-person town took pilgrims to the Cecil Village Park boat landing. Before completing the six-block procession, Father Michael Thiel, who is serving as the diocese’s Marian Route chaplain, paused at an intersection near the Village of Cecil town hall to pray for public officials.

A youth group from Green Bay, kneeling on both sides of the park entrance, welcomed the procession. At a makeshift altar a few yards from Shawano Lake, Father Thiel set down the monstrance and used incense to bless the vessel. Following a Gospel reading, the priest reverently carried the monstrance to a waiting pontoon boat.

Joined by four of the National Eucharistic Pilgrimage’s perpetual pilgrims — the young adults traveling the full Marian route — and others, the boat began an hour-long procession around the 6,100-acre lake.

With Christian music playing from speakers in a fishing boat driven by Deacon Raether, the flotilla of 19 boats made its way to a private dock on the lake’s north shore. From there, a short walking procession with dozens of children took perpetual pilgrims to Camp Tekakwitha, the diocese’s summer youth camp, where they spent the evening.

The boat procession on Shawano Lake was one of several boat processions that have taken place on the National Eucharistic Pilgrimage, a four-route journey across the United States traveled by 30 perpetual pilgrims, their priest chaplains and members of the Franciscan Friars of the Renewal.

During their first week, pilgrims on the western Serra route traveled on a 64-foot boat for a Eucharistic procession on the Sacramento River in California. Pilgrims on the eastern Serra Route have taken several boats and ferries as part of their pilgrimage, with Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan of New York blessing the city from the waters of New York Harbor near the Statue of Liberty May 27. They are also anticipating what organizers are calling a “boat-er-cade” procession on the Ohio River on a sternwheeler, a type of paddle wheel steamer boat, June 23.

The National Eucharistic Pilgrimage routes will converge in Indianapolis ahead of the National Eucharistic Congress July 17-21, a highlight of the U.S. bishops’ National Eucharistic Revival.

After returning to Cecil’s church, Deacon Raether said he was pleased with the event.

“I think it went fabulous. I’m so thankful that the Holy Spirit put this on my mind,” he told OSV News. “The whole trip across the lake, it was just beautiful.”

Father Walter Stumpf, one of several diocesan priests who participated in the walking and boat processions, said it was a blessing for the diocese to be part of the National Eucharistic Pilgrimage.

“I wanted to be part of the Eucharistic revival and join in for the Holy Hour and procession,” he said. “It was a great gathering of people from all over, just to be with the Lord and spend some time with him (Jesus).”

Father Kevin Ripley, who directs the diocese’s Kairos Year, a yearlong formation opportunity for young men discerning the priesthood, said the experience reminded him of a Gospel scene.

“It feels a lot like in the Gospels when Jesus is coming to an area, where people flock to him and the word spreads,” he said. “There’s a lot of joy in this today.”

Tom Rauterkus, a parish volunteer, said having St. Martin of Tours play a part in the national pilgrimage was a blessing.

“I tell you, it made my hair stand up,” he said. “I got goosebumps. I think it was pretty neat to have this in Cecil. It really makes you feel proud to be a parish member. Just to be a little part of that, it feels pretty important.”

Sam Lucero writes for OSV News from Wisconsin.

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