By Lindsay Steele
The Catholic Messenger
More than 2,000 years ago, Mary made a journey to Judea to be with her cousin Elizabeth shortly after the Annunciation.
On Memorial Day, May 30, Catholics will have an opportunity to walk 20 miles — the approximate distance someone in that time would have been able to travel in one day. The event honors the Feast of the Visitation of the Blessed Virgin Mary, which is May 31.
Organizer Father Jeff Belger said the walk is an opportunity for people to “slow down, think about what faith means and the joy that comes with a faith in God.”
The pilgrimage is also intended to tie in with the Year of Mercy, said Fr. Belger, parochial vicar of St. Mary of the Visitation Parish-Iowa City and campus minister of Newman Catholic Education Center at the University of Iowa. The walk begins at the Iowa City parish and ends at St. Mary Parish in Nichols. Both parishes are designated as Holy Door locations and pilgrims will have an opportunity to walk through both doors.
The walk will begin after an 8 a.m. morning prayer at St. Mary’s-Iowa City. Those who cannot make the 20-mile journey have an opportunity to start walking later at the 10-mile point or at another point 1.5 miles away from the Nichols parish. Water stations will be set up along the route and lunch will be served. A Vigil of the Visitation Mass will take place around 4:45 p.m. in Nichols, followed by dinner.
“In this particular walk, in a sense, they can walk with Mary, who is the mother of mercy,” Fr. Belger said.
For pilgrims’ safety, Johnson County Sheriff’s officers will patrol the route. Also, a SAG wagon will pick up slower walkers along the route at 4 p.m. so they can get to Nichols on time.
Interested persons may register online at icstmary.org or by calling St. Mary’s-Iowa City at (319) 337-4314. Cost is $15 and includes a T-shirt and lunch. Deadline to register is May 23; late registrants will not be guaranteed lunch or a T-shirt. All minors must be accompanied by an adult. Persons needing a ride back to Iowa City at the conclusion of the day can make arrangements by calling St. Mary’s in Iowa City in advance of the event date.
Schedule and start locations
8 a.m.: Morning prayer service at St. Mary’s-Iowa City
8:30 a.m.: Begin walk from St. Mary’s – Iowa City
1 p.m.: Ten-mile walk begins at the intersection of White Oak Avenue SE and 500th Street between Iowa City and Nichols
4 p.m.: 1.5 mile walk begins 1680 Davis Ave., Nichols
SAG wagon will pick up slower walkers at 4 p.m. along the route
4:45-5 p.m.: Approximate start time of the Vigil of the Visitation Mass at St. Mary’s-Nichols