By Anne Marie Amacher
DAVENPORT – It’s a long way to Jerusalem, but parishioners at Our Lady of Victory Parish are well on the journey through the “Walk to Jerusalem” program.
Cheryl Wagner, one of two parish nurses for Our Lady of Victory, said the idea for the faith and wellness program came about during a meeting she attended with other parish nurses.
She liked the idea as did the parish’s wellness committee, so during Lent parishioners are being encouraged to walk or do other exercise. The total miles will be calculated toward the equivalent of making a journey to Jerusalem.
More than 200 people signed up for the program, which began Ash Wednesday. More are joining. “We have many families signed up,” Wagner said. That was very encouraging.
But she also adapted the program to include prayer time and recitation of the rosary as a way to earn miles for parishioners who are unable to walk or can’t leave their homes.
Twenty minutes of walking, swimming, stretching, biking or praying equals one mile. Adjustments for running were made since it takes less time to complete a mile.
Each Saturday night or Sunday morning when parishioners arrive at church, they drop off their progress report at boxes in the church. “Others even e-mail or call in their miles to our committee or myself if they forget,” she said.
From Ash Wednesday through the first Sunday of Lent, 450 miles had been logged — many more miles than Wagner anticipated.
Lorraine Pacha, the parish’s second nurse, said that through March 22 — Lent’s halfway point — a total of 4,655 miles had been logged.
The walk to Jersualem is 2,434 miles on land (walking in the United States, Europe and Middle East), but 6,234 miles by plane from the U.S. Wagner originally had hoped to reach the land miles by Easter, but has reset that goal to air/land mileage.
“We’re going to be there before Easter,” Wagner said March 24. “We’re already in Rome.”
But getting out and exercising isn’t the only component of the Walk to Jerusalem for those who are physically able to do so, she noted. Prayer is vital. Participants received a booklet on meditation that they are encouraged to use before or after their walks. Some might even pray as they exercise.
Because of the success so far, Wager and the wellness committee are looking at offering the Walk to Bethlehem during Advent this year, and the Walk to Jerusalem again next Lent.
For smaller parishes, other programs are available, such as St. Paul’s journeys. “We thought we’d start big. It is fun to watch the people get involved,” she said.
The Diggs family chose to participate after daughter Theresa brought up the idea.
When the family found out that other activities counted, they signed up, said John Diggs Sr.
He is a bowling coach at Davenport Central High School where the three oldest children participate in bowling. Deborah Diggs said she runs and was eager to try with her kids to earn as many miles as possible. Theresa usually wears a pedometer to calculate her walking miles per day at and outside of school. Other activities that the Diggs family enjoys are golf, soccer, jogging and bicycling. They appreciate the spiritual component of this Lenten activity as well.
“It includes reflection and prayer,” Deborah said. “We pray the rosary as a family every day. I go to Mass every day and John (Sr.) does when he is in town. Dylan is an altar server who serves at least twice a week.”
Together the family totaled about 500 miles through this past weekend.