by Jessica Langdon
KANSAS CITY, Kan. — A few spaces remain for the once-in-a-lifetime pilgrimage that will take pilgrims to holy sites in four countries this October.
“For me, this is gong to be an opportunity to pray for peace in a very fervent and concentrated manner,” said Lesle Knop.
As executive director of the Catholic Foundation of Northeast Kansas and director of the archdiocesan office of stewardship and development, Knop has worked for years to help plan this pilgrimage that will take place Oct. 7-17.
With a special focus on Marian shrines, it celebrates CFNEK’s 25 years of work in the Archdiocese of Kansas City in Kansas to support the mission of parishes, schools and other entities into the future.
The pilgrimage also provides anyone with a special devotion to Mary — the patroness of the archdiocese — a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to honor her in a special way.
The group will visit Fatima, Portugal; Santiago de Compostela, Spain; Lourdes, France; and Rome — and offers many opportunities to pray together, attend Mass, reflect, and experience breathtaking sights.
“CFNEK was built on prayer and we will mark this anniversary by praying at these holy places of pilgrimage — for each other and for those the foundation serves,” said Archbishop Joseph F. Naumann, who will lead the pilgrimage.
Those who can’t physically make the pilgrimage may join the group spiritually through reflections and photographs through social media.
Belinda Lewis Held with Unitours — the travel agency that arranged the pilgrimage for the group — hopes people will watch for a live glimpse of the pilgrims during their audience with Pope Francis on Oct. 15 via www.catholictv.com.
Held can’t wait to hand pilgrims their specially designed flags commemorating the pilgrimage to wave during the audience.
The flags mention CFNEK and also bear images of Pope Francis and Archbishop Naumann.
Held has mapped out details for this experience, but can’t wait to actually live each moment along with the pilgrims.
“Personally, I am over the moon about accompanying this group — and am especially excited about Santiago de Compostela,” she said. “I have dreamed about walking the Way of St. James — the Camino — and plan on getting up at 5 a.m. to do a little of the walk! I hope some of the pilgrims will join me!”
A pre-pilgrimage meeting is scheduled for the pilgrims at 3 p.m. on Sept. 7 in the Archbishop Keleher Conference Center at Savior Pastoral Center in Kansas City, Kansas.
They will receive materials for the upcoming pilgrimage and go over important information ranging from packing tips and spiritual preparation to ways to share photos during their travels.
Knop believes it will be the journey of a lifetime with lots of surprises along the way.
“We’re very honored that so many people from throughout the archdiocese, through our region and the country have decided to join Archbishop Naumann on this wonderful opportunity to visit these important shrines honoring Our Lady,” said Knop.