Pilgrimage’s southern route begins at Texas border city

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Bishop Daniel E. Flores carries the monstrance as pilgrims process through the streets of Brownsville, Texas, May 19, from the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception to Sacred Heart Mission. The procession kicks off the St. Juan Diego Route of the National Eucharistic Pilgrimage. (OSV News photo/Tom McCarthy)

(OSV News) — In the morning of Pentecost at the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception in Brownsville, Texas, a large group of Catholics gathered to participate in a solemn Mass that launched the National Eucharistic Pilgrimage’s Juan Diego Route.

“As we celebrate this great Pentecost Sunday, we ask the Spirit to enable us to give that witness as we go out, not only from this cathedral church, but to the world,” said Brownsville’s Bishop Daniel E. Flores during the May 19 Mass celebrated in English and Spanish.

Launch of the Juan Diego Route in Brownsville, Texas

The southern arm of the national pilgrimage launched from the tip of Texas in Brownsville — nearly half a mile from the U.S.-Mexico border — and will wind around the Gulf of Mexico and traverse the country’s southeast on its way to Indianapolis to attend the July 17-21 10th National Eucharistic Congress.

This route is named after St. Juan Diego Cuauhtlatoatzin, a 16th century Indigenous Catholic saint — who in addition to transforming the history of Mexico by sharing the message and image of Our Lady of Guadalupe, patroness of the Americas — had a great devotion to the Eucharist. Every day, he walked 15 miles to go to Mass, in a kind of pilgrimage toward the Lord.

Bishop Flores said it meant a lot to begin “this route in this humble cathedral that is not very big, but it is ours, which represents the heart of the people of faith here in the valley; this temple built with the hands of the Oblate Fathers more than 150 years ago.”

The small cathedral seemed filled to the brim, with several parishioners standing at the back of the church. The Mass was also streamed live on the Diocese of Brownsville’s social media channels.

Concelebrating the Mass was Auxiliary Bishop Mario A. Avilés, as well as Franciscan Fathers Gabriel Kyte and Ignatius Shin, who would first accompany the six perpetual pilgrims along the Juan Diego Route.

Four groups of young adults are traveling with the Eucharist as perpetual pilgrims traveling north, south, east, and west across the country for the next eight weeks. These 24 young adults are traversing small towns, large cities and rural areas, mostly on foot, and — along with their chaplains — carry the Eucharist in a monstrance designed for this pilgrimage. In three of the groups, including the Juan Diego Route, are several Franciscan Friars of the Renewal serving as priest chaplains along the journey’s stages.

Bishop Flores’ message on Pentecost

In his homily, Bishop Flores preached in Spanish and English about the love of God, who became man to dialogue and touch the hearts of men and women. “For this God became flesh, that he might begin to poke at our hearts and say, ‘I know there’s stone there but we’re going to make it flesh,'” he explained.

“God knows nothing except to give himself. It is his own nature, his own identity as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. The continuous movement of his love is what he is,” he said. What God wants, the bishop added, was to be welcomed, “to pour himself out Eucharistically and to pour himself out in the Spirit.”

Bishop Daniel E. Flores leads adoration of the Eucharist at Sacred Heart Mission in Brownsville, Texas, May 19 as part of the kickoff to the St. Juan Diego Route of the National Eucharistic Pilgrimage. (OSV News photo/Tom McCarthy)

He added, “This God who only knows how to pour himself out, becomes man, becomes anonymous in himself, pours out his blood and breathes the Holy Spirit, all so that we can receive what he is.”

It is the Holy Spirit who makes us capable of receiving this outpouring of love, he said. “It is the Spirit who brings us the Christ of sacrifice, just as the Holy Spirit brought Christ into the womb of the Virgin Mary,” he said, “So he brings us Christ in the Eucharist. From the same Spirit, the Spirit continues to make his presence among us and that is why we walk with him.”

At the end of the Mass, Bishop Flores took the Blessed Sacrament from the altar and carried it among the parishioners and pilgrims to the church’s exit to begin a procession to three Catholic churches in Brownsville: Sacred Heart Mission, Our Lady of Good Counsel, and San Pedro Church.

Procession to Brownsville churches

At San Pedro, Bishop Flores is celebrating Mass, followed by an hour of Eucharistic adoration and benediction, and then dinner and fellowship with the perpetual pilgrims.

After journeying through the Diocese of Brownsville and participating in Masses and processions, the Juan Diego Route pilgrims will arrive in the Diocese of Corpus Christi, Texas, on the evening of May 22. From there, they — and the Blessed Sacrament — will encounter people along the Texas Gulf Coast to Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia, Tennessee, Kentucky and Indiana.

The four pilgrim routes — covering a total of 6,500 miles through 27 states and 65 dioceses — converge in Indianapolis on July 16, the day before the opening of the National Eucharistic Congress.

Marietha Góngora V.

Marietha Góngora V. writes for OSV News from Bogotá, Colombia.