Mazzuchelli Pilgrimage 2019 Print
Around the Diocese
Written by Fr. Greg Ihm, For the Catholic Herald   
Thursday, Sep. 12, 2019 -- 12:00 AM

mazzuchelli pilgrimage
Pilgrims pray at the tomb of Venerable Fr. Samuel Mazzuchelli, OP, in Benton. (Contributed photo)

Every pilgrimage is a response of the inner desire in each one of us to seek God. On this pilgrimage, we discovered a helper in Venerable Fr. Samuel Mazzuchelli, OP, and in seeking we found the joy connected to the gift of self which makes us want to seek God all the more.

The Mazzuchelli Pilgrimage took 22 pilgrims across the Mississippi River, through the cow and farm- dotted canvas of rolling hills in southern Wisconsin with all of it orchestrated sounds and smells, to the quiet tomb of a missionary that laid the foundation of the faith in the Diocese of Madison.

Day One: We began at St. Raphael Cathedral in Dubuque, Iowa, where we celebrated Mass and had a warm welcome from the Rector, Msgr. Tom Toale; the Parochial Vicar, Fr. Greg Bahl; and the Knights of Columbus Council of Shullsburg.

We saw the tombs of the archbishops that built a church on the foundations established by Father Samuel. We then journeyed across the Dubuque Julian Bridge, through and up out of the river valley of East Dubuque, Ill., taking Hwy. 11 to CR Z, where we concluded our first day at the motherhouse of the Sinsinawa Dominicans. Here we toured the museum of Father Samuel to learn his pilgrimage of life ,and we held a prayer vigil of healing for the sick that were present before the Blessed Sacrament and near the relics of Father Samuel.

Day Two: After a pilgrims’ breakfast and morning prayer, we set out on the longest, most difficult but beautiful parts of the pilgrimage. We were quickly encouraged by the parishioners coming to St. Joe’s for Sunday Mass, and this encouragement wasn’t lost on us as our bodies tried to overcome the stiff/aching muscles from the day before and pushing forward to the 11 miles that lay ahead.

No journey is perfect; it’s the disposition of receiving all from the loving providential hand of God that makes a journey like this beautiful. We had to endure the sounds and blasts of wind from the Harleys, semis, and speeding motorists interrupted by the peaceful chirping of crickets that filled the breeze blowing across the lush pastures and farm fields. Several pilgrims had to endure the pain of aching muscles, bad knees, and bleeding blisters but endured with light heartedness and joy to be on the pilgrimage.

God’s providence put hospitable people and resting places on the path to allow for rest and refueling. This part of the journey allowed for deep conversations, casual fun bantering, and silent reflection, where we felt free to learn about ourselves and each other.

Turning the corner in New Diggings both figuratively and actually was most appreciated, because all that remained was a short climb past a saloon, biker bar, and a Protestant church to the original Church of St. Augustine, built by Father Samuel, where we were spending the night. We were leaving behind 11 miles to an evening of Mass, dinner, singing, and rest.

The pilgrims started out as acquaintances, but after two days of walking together formed a community that discovered the joy and freedom of being beloved children in the Lord. It is rare to find high school aged students not wrapped in themselves, comparing/competing, and pulled apart by the drama of emotional attraction. What I experienced with this group was young people who knew their identity in Jesus Christ, not tarnished by selfishness and its pursuits — namely purity of heart, which gave way to the freedom of sharing the gift of themselves with one another.

I experienced in their sharing their love of music by singing the sun to its resting place at Night Prayer, singing the “Salve Regina” in the dark church filled with the light pouring from their hearts, the freedom of the Children of God. This freedom was begging to be released and was for another hour of singing beautiful songs to the Lord.

Day Three: This day was welcomed by the wonderful hospitality of locals providing a simple, hearty breakfast. After morning prayer, another “Salve Regina” in the church and a group photo, we made the short climb from New Diggings to Benton. We walked through the Galena River valley to the Ridge of CR J, which led us to our final destination of St. Patrick Church, the site of Venerable Mazzuchelli’s tomb, newly restored historic rectory, and another one of his churches.

Here in a short prayer service, we laid the prayers and intentions of our pilgrimage at the feet of a man who travelled the same route: more frequently, with more rugged terrain and weather, in the hope of bringing Jesus to us and us to Jesus.

Here I saw the satisfaction that comes with the accomplishment of arriving at one’s destination, so as to be strengthened to set out for the only destination that really matters. We concluded our pilgrimage by being with our Savior Jesus Christ in Eucharistic Adoration and consumed by Him through the reception of Him at the Mass.

Through this experience, I hope that future saints were formed. If this pilgrimage is appealing to you, please plan to join us next year, August 8 to 10, 2020.

Fr. Gregory Ihm is the director of vocations for the Diocese of Madison.