Porter County welcomes Jesus as they become pilgrims for a day

Generosity was the theme on July 3 as Father Kevin McCarthy, pastor of Nativity of Our Savior, celebrated morning Mass and encouraged the National Eucharistic Pilgrims to continue to see the Lord and be open to the Holy Spirit, as they as they put their faith in God and share his peace and presence with others.
Marking the fourth day of the pilgrimage’s visit to the Diocese of Gary, Laura Jones, of Munster, was thrilled to walk nine miles from Portage to Chesterton after Mass and was extremely moved by the experience. She said she saw people sharing beverages, food, lively conversation and quiet moments of encouragement. 
"I wasn't sure how my knee was going to hold up, but it did! I walked with a friend who talked with several other people about their experiences, and I heard so many wonderful stories from people who traveled great distances to join us," she said. 
"They were inspired by God to participate in this pilgrimage and follow His will for their lives,” said Jones, a St. Thomas More parishioner for 18 years. "This Eucharistic pilgrimage has been an amazing experience. We really need to take this through the diocese again. We should do something like this every year, on a smaller scale maybe, but with all the parishes in our diocese working together. This is something that I will be unpacking for a long time to come."
Vicky Hathaway, youth and young adult ministry coordinator for the diocese, and the pilgrimage coordinator, said God has been abating her anxiety at every turn. "It has been such a joyful experience," she said. "There have been nights when I couldn't sleep; I was worried about the weather, or logistics, or other issues, but everything continually fell into place. With trust in God, this journey of travels has been successful.
"I am so grateful to the people of this diocese," Hathaway said. “All these people in our diocese with different backgrounds and different locations made this so impactful and meaningful. It makes me so emotional to see God working through all these people in our diocese. The are so generous and hospitable as they helped bring Jesus to so many people. This has been so powerful." 
Jess Day, her husband, and their six children traveled from Macomb, Ill., to Minnesota to participate in the pilgrimage all the way to Indianapolis. They have been living off the kindness of others, which has been humbling. “Mostly we have been camping, but people have been sharing their meals with us and we have been able to stay in a hotel once in awhile,” Day said.
Day and her husband, Jonathan, are recent converts. “We wanted the real Jesus, not just a symbol. The Holy Spirit has been with us every step of the way. It’s been really fun, and it has been emotional to see the Lord’s provision through his people. It’s hard for me because I want to be self-sufficient. The Lord is showing me how to be dependent on him.
“I can see the fire spreading on this pilgrimage,” Day continued. “I see people being drawn to the Real Presence.”
Following an afternoon respite, the pilgrimage resumed at St. Teresa of Avila Catholic Student Center, where Valparaiso neighbors from St. Paul joined the perpetual pilgrims and St. Teresa faithful for Eucharistic Adoration before beginning a two-mile procession by 300 faithful through downtown Valparaiso to Ogden Park where, for safety reasons, the walkers boarded buses for the final leg of the march.
“It was a wonderful procession,” said Father Jacob McDaniel, chaplain at St. Teresa of Avila, who carried the Eucharist most of the way before turning the privilege over to Deacon Ivan Alatorre. “It was a great way for the people of Valparaiso to encounter the Lord, whether they know him already or had never heard of a Eucharistic procession.”
Cathy Moorehead, a St. Teresa of Avila member who moved to Valparaiso just two years ago from Michigan, appreciated the chance to give thanks to God for her blessings through the procession. “I received 12 years of Catholic education and always appreciated the education I got. My husband and I moved here to be near our son and his family,” she said. “(The procession) was beautiful; it was pretty special to have all those hundreds of people together. It felt good and was a cool thing to share between our two parishes.”
Arriving at St. Paul for Evening Prayer and Benediction, Father Roque Meraz, associate pastor, brought the Eucharist into the church for another period of adoration as a congregation estimated at 450 gathered.
The Life Team Band, led by St. Paul youth minster Mark Chargualaf, presented contemporary Christian hymns and reflections in the darkened church, followed by benediction.
“This week has really been an opportunity for the people of our diocese to live their faith joyfully and publicly,” said Bishop Robert J. McClory, who joined the Valparaiso procession. “It’s great to be with others and see people from all around the diocese choosing parts of this pilgrimage to attend. They can see the vibrancy of our diocese. We are one body, and the unity as we come together has been very special.”

Caption: Transitional Deacon Ivan Alatorre (left) carries the Eucharist in a monstrance on the last leg of the Eucharistic Procession through Valparaiso on July 3, the third day of the five-day visit in the Diocese of Gary by the National Eucharistic Pilgrimage, headed to Indianapolis for the National Eucharistic Congress, July 17-21. (Marlene A. Zloza photo)