National Eucharistic Pilgrimage at Seton Shrine Attracts 1,500 People; Spreads Hope and Joy - Seton Shrine

National Eucharistic Pilgrimage at Seton Shrine Attracts 1,500 People; Spreads Hope and Joy

The National Eucharistic Pilgrimage reaffirms Mother Seton as a Eucharistic saint.

By Kevin Shinkle

For Msgr. Andrew Baker, the impact of the visit by the National Eucharistic Pilgrimage to the National Shrine of Saint Elizabeth Ann Seton hit home when he turned his head to look at the normally placid streets of downtown Emmitsburg.

Instead of seeing cars and residents going about their day-to-day business, he saw a mass of people stretching for blocks, all walking behind a canopy carried by four men protecting a priest carrying a monstrance with the Eucharist.

“When we were coming down Seton Avenue, I looked back and couldn’t see the end of it,” Msgr. Baker, rector of Mount St. Mary’s Seminary, said of the procession on June 6 that included the six perpetual pilgrims making their way on the Eastern Seton Route from New Haven, Conn., to the National Eucharistic Congress in Indianapolis. “The knowledge that our Lord is really present among us is an incredible sign and catalyst of hope for us. We were in awe at the number of people who came out to adore Jesus and to be with him and to praise him.”

An estimated 1,500 people visited the Seton Shrine for a nationally televised Mass celebrated by Baltimore Archbishop William E. Lori and participation in two processions, the first through the town of Emmitsburg and the second “up the mountain” to Mount St. Mary’s University and Seminary and the National Shrine Grotto of Our Lady of Lourdes.

Visitors from states around the mid-Atlantic and Northeast regions converged on the Shrine for a day of Catholic worship, splendor and history, with an opportunity to literally walk in the footsteps of Saint Elizabeth Ann Seton, the first native-born American to be canonized a Catholic saint.

For the Shrine, the pilgrimage offered an opportunity to share Mother Seton’s Eucharistic-based spirituality, her relatable life story and her place in the history of the American Catholic Church with new audiences.

Following the death of her husband and her conversion to the Catholic faith, Mother Seton moved with her children to Emmitsburg in 1809, where she founded the Sisters of Charity of St. Joseph’s, the first community for religious women established in the United States. She also began one of the first Catholic schools for girls in the U.S., part of a mission to serve those in need that endures today through the work of various congregations of sisters in North America.

“It is really an honor to be under the patronage of Saint Elizabeth Ann Seton,” said Marina Frattaroli, one of the perpetual pilgrims and a convert to the faith. “I see her as a model of what it means to kind of die in Christ in conversation and to let Jesus transform you and become a new person, and that’s somewhat like what pilgrimage feels like as we live a completely different life.

“When I’ve worn her relic, it has been an amazing day of pilgrimage where I feel particularly called and encouraged to embody some of the virtues that Saint Elizabeth Ann Seton taught us, including her boldness and fearlessness in evangelizing and communicating facets of the Catholic faith to other people.”

‘A Beautiful Soul’

The perpetual pilgrims began their journey on May 17 at the tomb of Blessed Michael McGivney, founder of the Knights of Columbus, in New Haven. They will join pilgrims from the three other national routes on July 16 at the National Eucharistic Congress in Indianapolis, where more than 80,000 people are expected.

The Seton Shrine Mass and processions were one of the biggest events on the Seton Route Pilgrimage and the most-attended event at the Shrine since Mother Seton’s canonization in 1975.

“What a blessing it is and how appropriate it is that the National Shrine of Saint Elizabeth Seton is a destination for the Seton Route of the National Eucharistic Pilgrimage,” Archbishop Lori said in his homily, which was broadcast on EWTN and Salt + Light and concelebrated by more than 20 priests from around the region.

Lori, like so many others who attended Mount St. Mary’s Seminary, developed a special devotion to Mother Seton and often prayed before her tomb in the Basilica while studying to be a priest.

“Hers was a beautiful soul, open to the promptings of God, including those that were unexpected and those that would take her beyond the expectations of family and friends,” he said, adding that the Eucharist was essential to her conversion and central to her apostolic work.

As Mass concluded, Archbishop Lori, carrying the monstrance with the Eucharist, and led by incense-bearing acolytes slowly began the procession out the doors of the Basilica and into the warm, muggy morning.

As those in the procession followed, they said prayers and sang hymns, accompanied by Dr. John and Alexis Love in a van that drove along beside them. The pilgrims stopped to hear students at the nearby Mother Seton School sing “This Little Light is Mine” and then proceeded into downtown Emmitsburg, stopping at various points to pray.

Days before, members of the Shrine’s staff had left flyers at homes and business explaining what the procession was and how Catholics believe the Eucharist is the real presence of Jesus Christ. And throughout the two-mile procession, the perpetual pilgrims and members of the Franciscan Friars of the Immaculate handed out cards with QR codes that invited people to learn more about the Eucharist.

After a break for lunch, Adoration and visits to the Shrine’s museum, a second 3.7 mile procession began to Mount St. Mary’s in 90-degree heat.

“Mother Seton had such a love for the Eucharist in her earthy life and now in her perpetual life of worship in heaven, so we wanted to highlight those places she would have prayed while she was here,” said Rebecca Corbell, associate programs director at the Shrine and the primary organizer of the event.

“We hear stories of her going up the mountain to pray and priests at the seminary coming in and saying Masses for her and the sisters, so it was important to highlight that history and literally walk in her footsteps and the footsteps of the sisters who did so much for this country asking for hers and their intercession.”

‘The Summit of our Faith’

Rob Judge, executive director of the Seton Shrine, said that the Pilgrimage reaffirmed Mother Seton as a Eucharistic saint.

“To see people flowing in adoring our Lord and using this space to have an encounter with Him is humbling for all of us who are here every day, and we’re grateful for that,” he said. “The Shrine and its grounds and its facilities can lead people to a deeper encounter with the Lord, and we know that the Eucharist is the summit of our faith. It’s our strength. Christ promised he would be with us until the end of time and he’s with us personally through the Eucharist. This experience is a deeply personal way of affirming that.”

Teri Flach, a parishioner of St. Philip Catholic Church in Falls Church, Virginia, saw the personal importance of the pilgrimage as the afternoon procession turned onto the road leading to Mount St. Mary’s.

“We were stopped at one point and a man came out of his house,” she said. “He had a statute of Mary in his yard. There was a young girl in front of me who turned to him and beckoned for him to come, and he came down to the end of the driveway and prayed with us. Three houses up, a young family with a mother and father and two children did come out and join us and continued to walk with us.”

Rubiel and Diane Estevez came from Reading, Pa., with their three sons.

“This was a once in a lifetime experience to participate in the glory of Christ as a family,” Diane Estevez said. “The amount of people who have come together in Christ moved me. We are all one.”

Elena Knox of St. John the Evangelist Church in Severna Park, Maryland, who attended with her mother, echoed that sentiment.

“No matter where we are or where we are from, we are united in worship,” she said.

Her mother, Lydia Knox, added, “I believe Jesus in the Eucharist has the power to change this world and renew his Church. That’s what this is all about.”

Sister Theresa Marie, a member of the Daughters of Mary Mother of Healing Love, traveled along with three sisters, a driver and their driver’s dog first to New Haven and then to the Seton Shrine.

“I am here to serve, honor and glorify the Lord and to bring more souls to know and have a relationship with Him in the Eucharist,” she said. “This pilgrimage is a journey, an image of what we are all doing in this life, walking to our Heavenly Homeland with the Lord.”


The National Shrine of Saint Elizabeth Ann Seton

The National Shrine of Saint Elizabeth Ann Seton in Emmitsburg, Md., is a place of God and of history, where visitors can walk in the footsteps of a saint. The Shrine offers pilgrims prayerful comfort from Mother Seton’s story and her intercessions as a friend in heaven. It is an active Basilica and has a wide range of historical buildings and programs that show what life was like when Mother Seton lived here more than 200 years ago. It was here that she founded the first community of religious women established in the U.S., created the first free Catholic school for girls staffed by sisters in the U.S. and fulfilled her mission of serving those in need. Today, her legacy includes several religious communities with thousands of sisters, who serve others through schools, social service centers and hospitals throughout the world. She was canonized in 1975. Her remains are entombed at the National Shrine that bears her name. For more information, please visit