Walking the Walk

10 years after the walking pilgrimage, the journey continues

BY TONI CASHNELLI

It was a test of their faith and their feet.

On June 21, 2009, four young Franciscan friars and two of their teachers set off on the journey of a lifetime, a 300-mile walking pilgrimage along the highways and back roads of Virginia. Each had in his backpack one blanket and a handmade, spiral-bound worship guide. They took no food and no money.

Friars in habit

L-R: Clifford Hennings, Ed Shea, Josh Van Cleef, Roger Lopez, Richard Goodin, and Mark Soehner

They hoped to find themselves by losing life’s daily distractions. It was an act of trust, the biggest leap of faith they would ever make. Somehow, they prayed, the Lord would provide. God would keep them safe. And His goodness would be revealed through the people they encountered on the road.

They expected to attract attention. They did not expect the outpouring of ecumenical support that greeted them along the way – or the excitement generated by their walking witness. A blog we developed for the friars drew nearly 70 comments from those impressed by their objective and encouraged by their passion. “I am happy to report that the friars are real,” one woman blogged immediately after meeting them.

By the time they reached their destination, the Franciscan Monastery of the Holy Land in Washington, D.C., they had been interviewed by six media outlets. Their journey inspired thousands, thanks to a front-page story in the Washington Post (Article) and a CNS report reprinted in diocesan newspapers and posted on religious web sites throughout the country. In the past decade, it has inspired many more, particularly those searching for a role model or a religious vocation.

On the 10th anniversary of their pilgrimage, we asked two of those friars to tell us what it meant to them – and how it continues to shape their lives.

Related posts: Fr. Clifford Hennings’ reflection, Franciscan Joy: Living with radical trust, and Fr. Mark’s Soehner’s reflection, Moments of Grace and Discovery. More photos on Flickr.

 

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