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Inaugural Walk to Mary Leaves Pilgrims Tired but Invigorated
Sam Lucero
Source: Catholic News Service
Published: Wednesday, May 8, 2013
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Alberto Moncada holds a small statue of Mary while participating in the Walk to Mary pilgrimage May 4 in the Diocese of Green Bay, Wis.
CHAMPION, Wis. (CNS) — At the end of the inaugural Walk to Mary pilgrimage May 4, the approximately 500 participants were sore and tired, yet invigorated.

"My legs are starting to tighten up," said Jim Gillis of Seymour while resting on the grass at the Shrine of Our Lady of Good Help in Champion with his wife Jeannie. Both joined the pilgrimage at UW-Green Bay, completing the final nine miles. "It was just a perfect day for the first Walk to Mary. With any luck, we'll do it again next year."

The Walk to Mary along the 21 miles from St. Norbert Abbey in De Pere to the shrine was the idea of two local Catholics, Pat Deprey and Tom Schmit, in response to a challenge issued at a Catholic men's conference. They spent a year and a half organizing the event, working with local municipalities and police to assure a convenient walking route and a safe experience for people of all ages.

"The Blessed Mother has been watching over us," Deprey said during a break at Holy Cross School in Bay Settlement, where the Sisters of St. Francis of the Holy Cross served lunch to walkers. "I've been praying for a year and a half over this, right up to today. It couldn't be a better day. The weather is perfect for a walk."

Deprey said that between 450 and 500 people signed up for the walk, "but I have also run across some people who showed up and walked with us." While the Walk to Mary was an opportunity to offer prayers and thanks to the Blessed Mother, it was also a way to support Catholic education.

Registration for the walk was $30 per person and money raised will benefit Catholic education initiatives, said Deprey.

"We are going to establish an endowment fund, maybe call it the Sr. Adele children's fund," Deprey told The Compass, Green Bay diocesan newspaper, May 7. The Blessed Mother appeared to Adele Brise in 1859. Her message to Brise was to gather the children and to teach them about their faith.

"It's really continuing the work she set out to do, per the message from the Blessed Mother, back in 1859," said Deprey. He said a grant process will be created to distribute money "for the benefit of Catholic education — locally, throughout the state."

Deprey said he has been busy answering emails and phone calls from people about the Walk to Mary. Many have committed to next year's walk. "I've got a feeling we will be double or triple the size next year."

Having participated in pilgrimages to Marian shrines in Europe with his wife Julie, Deprey said those experiences "changed me. I'm just hopeful that (the Walk to Mary) will change some other people, too."

Walk to Mary participants came from around the Midwest, including the Twin Cities, Chicago and Pennsylvania, said Deprey.

Among the out-of-state walkers was Alberto Moncada from Chicago. He and wife Griselda came to Green Bay with their three children, Andrea, Armando and Marco, and three other family members. "We made it a family affair," said Alberto, who carried a miniature statue of Mary while walking the 21 miles. "We are all here as a family and it's for a good cause — for Mary."

Like many other pilgrims, Julie Kresal, a member of St. Bernard Parish in Appleton, said she participated in the walk "to strengthen my spiritual life. I just felt a real calling."

"It was quite a journey," said Kresal, who walked 21 miles. "I knew I was going to (finish). No matter how I felt, I was going to do it. I did a lot of praying along the way as things started to hurt. I prayed for Joseph and Mary to help us in our travels."

She said the experience was refreshing. "I am very happy that I did it. Just to be able to walk with all of these people and pray the rosary and sing, it was a wonderful experience. I would definitely do it again."

Randall and Patty Myszka, members of St. John the Baptist Parish in Edgar, located in the Diocese of La Crosse, walked the final nine miles with their daughters — Miranda, 14, and Lydia, 11. "This is the Year of Faith so this is one of those things you're supposed to do," said Randall Myszka. Participating as a family made the event more meaningful, he added.

"This is just a real good way of being an example, parents who show their children how to live out your faith and also to share it with a bunch of other folks," he said. "It was a good day. We really enjoyed ourselves."

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Lucero is editor of The Compass, Green Bay diocesan newspaper.

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