Eucharistic Pilgrimage participants celebrate, pray in St. John

ST. JOHN – Local faithful and perpetual pilgrims joined the National Eucharistic Pilgrimage’s Marian Route on Day 4 of the trek across Northwest Indiana for an evening of prayer and festivities on Independence Day, July 4. 
An over-capacity crowd gathered at St. John the Evangelist church on the evening of the national holiday and were reminded of faithful citizenship – that we have respect for our country, and that God’s kingdom is our first priority.  
“Our allegiance is to the heavenly and not the temporal,” Bishop of Gary Robert J. McClory said in his homily.
He said we must identify that true freedom is not “doing whatever I want,” which can become addictive and destructive, but rather turning to salvation in Jesus Christ. “The beautiful thing is that the Lord intended for us for all eternity to be free, living according to His plan.” 
Bishop McClory, who reminded the faithful to turn to the Lord in His Real Presence, would later carry the Blessed Sacrament in a monstrance as the assembly and others joined in a half-mile walk through the Shrine of Christ’s Passion prayer trial to the Our Lady of Guadalupe Plaza.  
"I can't put it in words ... (Jesus) is here, He’s present, I can feel it in my heart. I can feel Him traveling through all of these hearts and all of these souls,” said Gail O’Donnell of Crown Point, Ind. during a period of praise music.  
Relevant Radio host Father Francis “Rocky” Hoffman led those in the plaza and those listening to the network broadcast in praying the Luminous Mysteries of the Rosary. Between the decades, he called forward people who had prayer intentions. 
Invocations included for an end to war and abortion and for the relief of those suffering from economic concerns. One family visiting from the Archdiocese of Milwaukee was unified in their prayer request. Indianapolis-native Aaron Foege traveled to the Region with seven females – his wife Stephanie and their six daughters, ages three to 14.  
Though they did not make it to the microphone to share their prayer request, they spoke among themselves about the concerns of a personal health matter.  
“I love the praise-and-worship music that we had with Jesus in the Eucharist and the Rosary – it seemed like all of the old and all of the new (provided) an authentic Catholic experience,” said Aaron Foege.
At the benediction, the bishop raised his hand toward the Blessed Sacrament, and as he lifted up the prayers of the faithful, emotion was evident in his voice. While some looked tearful, others in the audience, especially youngsters, looked bright eyed as they noted the spattering of nearby fireworks at dusk. 
The Shrine’s official aerial display show began when dozens of drones were coordinated to form a cross in the southern sky. The devices also lined up to represent the red, white and blue of the American flag, a map of the National Eucharistic Pilgrimage routes and various patriotic and religious symbols.  
As fireworks began from just north of the shrine, perpetual pilgrim Kai Weiss reflected on his experience traversing Northwest Indiana. The native of the Bavarian region of Germany, who is a graduate student and researcher in Washington, D.C., said the Midwest has made an impression on him.  
“This has been such an incredible adventure, very unique, once-in-a-lifetime,” Weiss said. “Being in the Diocese of Gary has been such a blessing. There are so many enthusiastic Catholics here and it is very, very beautiful to see that revival happening.” 


Caption: At The Shrine of Christ’s Passion in St. John, seminarians and servers lead the faithful as Bishop Robert J. McClory carries a monstrance holding the Blessed Sacrament near host St. John the Evangelist on July 4. Perpetual pilgrims on the Marian Route of the National Eucharistic Pilgrimage visited the parish, joining local faithful for Mass, a Eucharistic procession, praying the Rosary and a patriotic-themed drone and fireworks show. (Anthony D. Alonzo photo)