Modern Millennial Pilgrimage

The Pilgrims

Will F. Peterson

Experienced firsthand radical hospitality on trips to Iowa and North Dakota as undergraduate at the University of Notre Dame. Recognized that American Catholicism contains a multitude of people willing to open their doors to travelers. Made pilgrimage to Rome for Pope Francis’s first Easter. Felt the immense power of a physical journey of faith shared with others. Taught for two years in an under-resourced Catholic high school in Memphis, TN through Notre Dame’s A.C.E. Teaching Fellowship Program. Witnessed the limiting effects of not having the opportunity to come into contact with people who may have shared beliefs, but different views and experiences of life. Currently, Peace and Justice Intern at Holy Spirit Parish in Lexington, KY.

David Cable

Eagle Scout with experience backpacking throughout North and South America. Realized powerful lessons in humility and hospitality through traveling with others in unfamiliar territory. Encountered God’s glory within the wilderness of His creation. Upon graduation from the University of Notre Dame, taught social studies and religion for two years in Notre Dame’s A.C.E. Teaching Fellowship Program at a high-poverty parochial school in the Boyle Heights neighborhood of Los Angeles. Witnessed the strength and generosity of a tight-knit and generous community within a poverty-stricken area. Currently, teaching at a high-poverty parochial school in Indianapolis, IN.

The Pilgrimage

Will and David believe the Abbey of Gethsemani is a perfect place to end the pilgrimage because it is a place of contemplation and prayer and, importantly, the residence of Thomas Merton during his time as a monk. Merton was most recently in the news for the centenary of his birth in 2015 and for his being singled out by Pope Francis as a “great American” and as “above all a man of prayer, a thinker who challenged the certitudes of his time and opened new horizons for souls and for the church.” The pilgrims take Thomas Merton to be their spiritual inspiration and pilgrim exemplar on three accounts:

First, Merton demonstrated his understanding of the necessity of pilgrimage when he wrote, “Man instinctively regards himself as a wanderer and wayfarer, and it is second nature for him to go on pilgrimage in search of a privileged and holy place, a center and source of indefectible life.”

Second, Merton was committed to the spirit of profound interreligious understanding. This commitment has increasingly become a religious and societal good in our ever-changing diverse and pluralistic contexts. Merton was deeply steeped in the meditative practices of Buddhism and committed to finding grace in non-Christian tradition.

Third, Merton also wrote, “The monk must see Christ in the pilgrim and the stranger who come from the world, especially if they are poor. Such is the spirit and letter of the Rule.” The dedication to hospitality of those following the Rule of St. Benedict must serve as motivation and inspiration for those who profess the same faith. This movement invites all people, not just monks, to see Christ in the pilgrim and the stranger.

The Schedule

Saturday, March 25th: Evening Mass at the Newman Center, which is the first Roman Catholic Parish in the network. Stay at apartment in Lexington as first home in network.

Sunday, March 26th: Schedule and route have been made public, so any and all willing to share at least part of the journey are invited to do so. Pilgrims leave apartment with supporters. Spend day in prayer and discussion for walk to host family home in St. Lawrence Parish in Lawrenceburg. Spend evening in community with family. (Miles walked: 23 miles)

Monday, March 27th: Spend day in prayer and discussion for walk to host family home near Chaplin, KY. Spend evening in community with family. (21 miles)

Tuesday, March 28th:  Spend day in prayer and discussion for walk to “Room in the Inn,” an interfaith homeless shelter in Bardstown. Spend evening in community. (12 miles)

Wednesday, March 29th: Attend Morning Mass at the Basilica in Bardstown at 6:30AM. Spend time at Union Church, the first and oldest brick church built in Bardstown (1812), now known as the First Baptist Church. Arrive at the Abbey of Gethsemani. Spend two nights there, taking part in praying the Hours, reflection on Merton, and silent retreat. Discussion with expert on the importance interreligious dialogue and connection for Merton. (15 miles. Approx. 75 miles)

Collaboration with Religion News Foundation (RNF)

Religion News Foundation will serve as the collaborator of the pilgrimage and provide a webpage, social media and some marketing.  RNF will raise funds for its general purposes by inviting donors to sponsor Will and David’s 75-mile walk.

Pilgrimage Generated Content

  • Curated web page for Modern Millennial Pilgrim on the Religion News Foundation website
  • A press release and e-mail blast detailing the sponsorship and partnership, including a link to garner funds for the cause
  • Interviews with Dr. Christine Pohl and Dr. James R. Thobaben, both of Wilmore, Kentucky-based Asbury Theological Seminary, about the importance of pilgrimage and hospitality across religious traditions, and in Christianity in particular
  • Short, pre-trip interview of both participants
  • Nightly pilgrim-generated multimedia content which may include short blog posts, pictures, and video
  • A post-pilgrimage interview