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Cathedral of St. Peter in Chains, Cincinnati / Mitchell Chabot/Shutterstock

Washington D.C., Apr 30, 2021 / 10:00 am (CNA).

The Archdiocese of Cincinnati will mark its bicentennial with a walking Marian pilgrimage, helping the faithful prepare for the re-consecration to Jesus through Mary. 

On June 19, 2021, the Archdiocese of Cincinnati will celebrate the 200th anniversary of its founding with a Solemn Mass of Thanksgiving offered by Archbishop Dennis Schnurr. At the Mass, Schnurr will re-consecrate the archdiocese.

As a spiritual preparation for the re-consecration, the diocese thought of a walking Marian pilgrimage.

“Traditionally the preparation for a consecration to Jesus through Mary takes 33 days,” said a statement from Jennifer Schack, the director of media relations for the archdiocese. “The 33-day pilgrimage is our way of bringing the archdiocese together to participate in the 33-day preparation.”

In the 33 days leading up to the anniversary, pilgrims will process throughout the archdiocese with a statue of Our Lady of Fatima. Pilgrims can sign up for three-day shifts for the pilgrimage, which will make stops at 36 parishes throughout the archdiocese. The 300-mile route will reach each deanery, or geographical region of parishes, of the archdiocese.

The archdiocese says the pilgrimage will be the longest Marian procession in the United States. 

“Each of the 36 parishes hosting pilgrims has planned local prayer opportunities at their church including benediction, holy hours, rosary rallies, and Masses,” Schack explained.  

While pilgrims have to sign up to walk the route, Schack told CNA that there will be four “cornerstone events” during the pilgrimage open to all the faithful of the archdiocese. The events are expected to have approximately 1,000 to 3,000 attendees. 

The opening Mass of the pilgrimage will be offered on May 16 at the Our Lady of Fatima Shrine in Russells Point, Ohio. That will be followed by a Mass and concert on May 21 at the Maria Stein Shrine, a family concert and Mass at Chaminade-Julienne High School in Dayton, Ohio, on May 29, and the June 19 bicentennial Mass at the Cathedral of St. Peter in Chains in Cincinnati. 

Schack told CNA that the archdiocese is aiming to have eight to 10 “guardian pilgrims” with the Marian statue on each leg of the pilgrimage. The pilgrimage route has 11 legs total, and pilgrims can expect to walk about 10 miles per day. 

The archdiocese says that safety of pilgrims is an important consideration. 

“Every aspect of the Pilgrimage has been thoroughly vetted and approved by Risk Management and Child Protection,” said Schack. 

“All Guardian Pilgrims are required to be Virtus compliant and background checked. Every Guardian Pilgrim will be required to attend an orientation where safety and health protocol will be covered. This will include health advice from a health professional,” she said.

Additionally, local authorities have been made aware of the pilgrimage, and police escorts will be available when necessary, she said. 

“An RV with a hitch-mounted LED traffic safety board will follow behind the guardian pilgrims,” said Schack. “The RV will hold the gear, food, water, and first aid for the guardian pilgrims and will be used to transport pilgrims to a safe location in the case of severe weather. There will be archdiocesan employees present along the entire route in order to ensure the safety of all participants.”

The pilgrimage is expected to make stops not only at parishes, but also outside of abortion clinics and penitentiaries. The pilgrims will also visit local charitable organizations, including the St. Vincent de Paul homeless shelter in Dayton and a pregnancy center in Cincinnati. 

Those who are unable to make the physical pilgrimage are invited to become “spiritual pilgrims,” and can follow along with the official Facebook group for the event.