Dennie Foster did not plan to journey the 2023 Diocesan Lenten Pilgrimage, but she changed her mind after stumbling onto it halfway through Lent.
The pilgrimage involved stops at 42 parishes in the Diocese of Brooklyn for eucharistic adoration during the holy season leading up to Easter Sunday. At each stop, the “pilgrims” received “passports,” a purple-covered booklet that was stamped at each parish they visited.
Foster’s parish, St. Teresa of Avila-St. Anthony of Padua, South Ozone Park, hosted one of the two stops scheduled for March 10. She is her parish’s director of the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults.
So joining in that particular eucharistic adoration — the act of silent prayer of praise in the presence of the body of Christ — was convenient for Foster, but it also turned out to be life-changing.
“That day, something just changed for me, sitting there with the Lord for so long,” she said on Wednesday, April 5. “And then I was like, ‘You know what? I feel so different. I think I’m gonna use this passport and see other churches.’ And that’s when it started. Today makes 21.”
Foster was one of about 50 pilgrims and parishioners who, on April 5, attended Mass and adoration at the final pilgrimage parish stop — Holy Cross Parish in Maspeth.
Bishop Robert Brennan celebrated Mass there, with Auxiliary Bishop Witold Mroziewski, the pastor at Holy Cross, concelebrating. Students in grades 5-8 from nearby St. Stanislaus Kostka Catholic Academy also attended.
The pilgrimage had begun on Ash Wednesday, Feb. 22, at the Cathedral Basilica of St. James in Downtown Brooklyn. Bishop Brennan suggested it as part of the ongoing National Eucharistic Revival to reinvigorate the faith in the presence of Jesus in the Eucharist.
“Honestly, I never did that much sitting with the Lord,” Foster said. “Now I am absolutely in it because it’s something that has changed so much about me. I really know now that Jesus is there in the Eucharist, and I felt that way just sitting there — sitting with Jesus. Now, I can see he’s really the center of my heart.”
Madeline Flood, a member of St. Mary Mother of Jesus in southwest Brooklyn, managed to make each stop. Her visit to Holy Cross was brief because she was on a break from her job as a deliverer for an auto parts retailer.
When asked for a comment, Flood cheerfully agreed but asked, “Do you mind if I say hello to Jesus first?”
Flood hurried up the main aisle and then lay on the floor for a few moments in front of the altar, which supported the Eucharist in an ornate monstrance.
“I’ve learned to surrender to God,” she said after returning to the back of the church. “It has been a long, winding road. But for a long time, it was, ‘Let’s do it my way.’
“But I think being on this pilgrimage, and seeing all the different kinds of churches, and meeting all the different kinds of people, I’ve learned to surrender my way to His way.”
Bishop Brennan also suggested the pilgrimage to address goals expressed in the synod process, such as more of an emphasis on youth and young adults and adult faith formation.
Two sixth graders at St. Stanislaus Kostka Catholic Academy discussed the powerful presence of the Lord during the stop at Holy Cross Parish.
“It was more in-depth,” said Matthew Wylez, whose family attends Holy Cross. “You could feel it a lot more.”
Classmate Nathaly Tovas agreed and added that the presence of the Lord helped prepare her heart for Easter Sunday.
“I feel like it was more important than most of the other Masses,” she said. “It was much more medicating — focusing on everything that is going to happen.”
At the close of the Mass, Bishop Brennan praised the pilgrims.
“This has been an extraordinary Lent, and you made that happen,” he said. “Your prayer, your fidelity, and your perseverance have been a blessing for the whole Church. And again, I repeat my thanks to all the parishes that hosted, to all the pastors and administrators who have accommodated and have done the work.
“As we enter into the solemn days, we step a little closer to Jesus. Listen to Him a little more carefully, and try to be more aware of how much He loves us so that on Easter Sunday, we can sing with joy that Jesus has risen.”
In turn, Joseph Guirrier, a member of St. Therese of Lisieux Parish in Brooklyn’s “Little Haiti” neighborhood, praised Bishop Brennan for making it part of “his job” to lead the pilgrims.
Guirrier said he made all but one stop because of a medical appointment, and he insisted that participating in the pilgrimage had transformed him.
“This is one of the best things that happened to me in my life because I see things,” Guirrier exclaimed.
He noted that he had long known the power of adoration. “But now,” he said, “I understand more.”