By Jennifer Mauro | Associate Editor
For four years, Father John E. Large has made the nearly 60-mile walk from Ss. Peter and Paul Church, Great Meadows, to the Our Lady of Czestochowa Shrine in Doylestown, Pa.
But this year, Father Large, parochial vicar in St. Thomas More Parish, Manalapan, hopes young adults from around the Diocese will join him on the 30th anniversary of the Polish walking pilgrimage.
“In the United States, we think of a pilgrimage as getting on a plane or a bus,” he said. “But the original pilgrimages were just getting on your feet and going from one place to another.”
The annual walk, set for Aug. 10-13, is a four-day, 57.5-mile retreat through New Jersey and Pennsylvania. Pilgrims from around the country typically break into Polish or English-speaking groups, one of which is led by the Franciscan Friars of the Renewal. Along the way, there is fellowship, prayer, reflection, Confession and daily Mass. Participants camp overnight. It ends with Sunday Mass celebrated at the Polish-American Marian shrine the afternoon of the last day.
On May 17, Father Large – along with the Young Adults in Faith, a group of millennials from around Monmouth County – are hosting an information session for young adults from the Diocese who are interested in making the walk together.
“You’ve got to learn to offer up everything to God in this journey,” Father Large said, explaining that the more than 10-mile-a-day hike across various terrains can be rigorous.
He believes, however, that the journey is a perfect reflection of life – a lesson that young adults could benefit from learning early on.
“It’s an experience that involves sacrifice and prayer. It’s a teaching experience about our faith,” he said. “[The pilgrimage] is filled with ups and downs. It’s a minute experience of what our lives as Christians are like.”
That lesson is one of the reasons he made the pilgrimage for three years as a seminarian. “I wanted the pilgrimage to be a symbol of what I would face down the road,” Father Large said.
“One of the things that keeps me going back is the people you meet,” he added, explaining that a lot of personal stories are shared along the way.
The free information session will run from 6:30 to 9 p.m. at Our Lady of Mercy Church (part of St. Thomas More Parish), in the church’s Valentine Hall, 8 Pine St., Englishtown. The evening will include Polish-themed food and a short video. The Franciscan Friars of the Renewal will also be in attendance.
For more information, contact Father Large at email@example.com, or visit the Pilgrimage website.