by Rose Naomi Grace Read
MOUND CITY — No mere stroll, this cross-country journey across Linn County featured muck, mud, woods, creeks, hills and prairie grass tall enough to hide a person.
And lots of prayer, holy songs and pilgrim fellowship.
The Little Sisters and Little Brothers of the Lamb led a 30-person pilgrimage on May 30 and 31 that covered 24 miles from Pleasanton to Mound City, and then on to the St. Rose Philippine Duchesne Memorial Park near Centerville.
The park is the site of the Sugar Creek Mission, the end of the “Trail of Death,” where exiled Potawatomi Indians made their home in 1837. It was also where St. Rose Philippine Duchesne ministered to the Potawatomi.
“We have been coming here quite often since we arrived in Kansas City because Saint Rose Philippine Duchesne was a French Sister who came on a mission to the United States. And, as we are also Europeans, we have a very great love for her,” said Little Sister Stephanie.
“We thought, well, maybe one time we could, instead of driving here, walk here to be in communion with the Potawatomi Nation who were forced to walk on the Trail of Death to get here,” she continued. “So we decided to invite young people to join us on this pilgrimage.”
The first leg of the pilgrimage began in Pleasanton and ended seven miles later at Sacred Heart Parish and Shrine of St. Rose Philippine Duchesne in Mound City. There, parishioners served supper, and the Community of the Lamb held a vigil in the church.
“We wanted to give the pilgrims an experience of prayer while walking, an experience of God, an experience of [the] journey that is really our life,” said Little Sister Dorote.
“It’s not something that is very popular here in the United States, but maybe it will [one day],” she continued. “To visit holy places, shrines and to have time to pray — to offer a kind of suffering for the important intentions of others.”
The second leg of the pilgrimage, which covered 17 miles between Mound City and the St. Rose Philippine Duchesne Memorial Park, was a bit more challenging. Nevertheless, the pilgrims kept a steady pace as they prayed the rosary and sang songs.
“I love Kansas and I love the idea of walking through Kansas and visiting a shrine that venerates a saint who lived in Kansas. What I enjoyed most was the fellowship of all of the pilgrims traveling together,” said pilgrim Cody Moore.
The pilgrims had plenty of opportunity to enjoy the prairie wildlife, insects and plants on their journey. They even made a bouquet of wild prairie flowers they found along the way.
“It’s been an opportunity to spend time with the Lord, to see him just while walking in nature and while being with each other,” said Bianca Tropeano. “It’s a time to just listen to him in silence while praying with the community.”
Near the end of the second leg, as the cicadas sang in the trees, the pilgrims sang songs of thanksgiving and praise as they climbed the steepest hill of the journey.
“I love going on pilgrimages. I’ve been to the Holy Land and Medjugorje,” said Annie Tompkins, a guidance counselor at Bishop Ward High School in Kansas City, Kansas. “But sometimes we forget in Kansas City, that we have the opportunity to go on a pilgrimage in our own back yard. Even these two days — not having a phone or the Internet — is a complete break and a spiritual journey. Also, really encountering God in nature 200 percent was really powerful.”
The aches and pains the pilgrims experienced were opportunities to “offer it up” for others who are suffering.
“Just the other night, we saw a story about these African people who are being forced out of their country and fleeing to Italy, so I really carried them in my heart these last days because they have to leave and they make a much more difficult journey. This is something little that we can do,” said Little Sister-elect Maggie.
When the pilgrims reached the shrine, an outdoor Mass was celebrated by Little Brother Christophe beneath crosses on which are inscribed the names of more than 600 Catholic Potawatomi buried at the site.
“I enjoy very much the pilgrimages because the pilgrimage is always a figure of what is our journey on earth,” said Little Brother Christophe. “It’s always a moment where we feel tired — we feel a difficult moment. But also it’s a figure of what is the trial in our life and how to go through and where we arrive, the goal. It’s like the figure to arrive at salvation, to arrive with the Lord, to arrive in heaven . . . and that is a good thing to do.”
“Also, I love to do that because we can have a moment when we are walking with people who are doing this pilgrimage and sometimes they have questions about their life,” he said. “The first day, we are little bit shy with one another. But after, the ice is melting and we can really entrust our difficulties with another and we can give the light we have and can share experiences with them. And that is wonderful.”
Organizer and trail leader Todd Schneider, along with his family and others from Sacred Heart Parish in Mound City, provided a hearty meal and plenty of cold water for the pilgrims.
“I know the Sisters really well and, when they suggested something like this, I knew it’s going to be good,” said Jonathan Morrand. “I knew it would be a good spiritual experience. This is exactly what I needed; it really set everything back on track.
“It was so nice I almost don’t want to go back.”