Sacramental Pilgrimage in the Year of Faith

This month’s post for Amazing Catechists shares highlights of my “Sacramental Pilgrimage.”

One of the ways for the faithful to gain a Plenary Indulgence in this Year of Faith is to… “On any day they chose, during the Year of Faith, if they make a pious visit to the baptistry, or other place in which they received the Sacrament of Baptism, and there renew their baptismal promises in any legitimate form.” (For more on the Plenary Indulgences during this Year of Faith, read about it here.)

When I had initially heard about this Plenary Indulgence, I thought this might be difficult, given the fact that I now live 500 miles away from my hometown in New Jersey. In some respects, I envied those people (like my husband and sons) whose complete sacramental history is confined to one church close by. However, the more I thought about it, the more it intrigued me. After all, it had been 45 years since I had last visited the church of my Baptism. Once the decision was made, however, it just made sense to also visit the churches where I received my other sacraments, since all three churches were within a 15-20 mile range. So instead of embarking on a Baptismal Pilgrimage, I decided to make it a “Sacramental Pilgrimage.” My husband came along to photograph the journey.

1. Sacred Heart Church, Camden NJ – The Sacraments of Baptism, First Penance, First Communion

My first stop was Sacred Heart Parish in Camden, NJ. This parish is situated in the heart of inner city Camden. Although it had been 45 years since I had last visited this parish, I recognized both the church and school immediately.

After taking a few photos in front of the Church, we tried to open the doors, but they were locked. We headed to the rectory and the secretary (Ann) answered the door with a smile on her face. When I told her that I was making a Sacramental Pilgrimage and that I was baptized (and made my First Communion) here, her smile widened and she excitedly invited us in to meet Monsignor Doyle and the staff, who were having breakfast in the small kitchen. This kind and gracious group of people made me feel special and I’m grateful for their generous and warm welcome.

In front of Sacred Heart Church, Camden NJ  photo copyright James Hrkach

In front of Sacred Heart Church, Camden NJ photo copyright James Hrkach

The baptistry.  Photo copyright James Hrkach

The baptistry. Photo copyright James Hrkach

The interior of the church. It seemed a lot smaller and more beautiful than I remembered. Photo copyright James Hrkach

The interior of the church. It seemed a lot smaller than I remembered. Photo copyright James Hrkach

At the side door entrance of Sacred Heart School. Copyright James Hrkach

At the side door entrance of Sacred Heart School which I attended from first grade to fourth grade, 1965-1969. Copyright James Hrkach

2. St. Richard’s Church, Philadelphia, PA – The Sacrament of Confirmation

A short car drive across the Walt Whitman Bridge to South Philly took us to St. Richard’s Church, where I was confirmed.

St. Richard's Church. I attended St. Richard's School (in background...now St. Pio School) from 5th grade to 7th grade. Photo copyright James Hrkach

St. Richard’s Church. I attended St. Richard’s School (in background…now St. Pio School) from 5th grade to 7th grade. Photo copyright James Hrkach

My confirmation, 1971, St. Richard's Church. Copyright Ellen Hrkach

My confirmation, 1971, St. Richard’s Church. Copyright Ellen Hrkach

Not only was I confirmed in this Church, my parents were married here 58 years ago.

My mother, a new bride, praying in front of the Blessed Mother statue. 1955. copyright Ellen Hrkach

My mother, a new bride, praying in front of the Blessed Mother statue. 1955. copyright Ellen Hrkach

I didn’t realize that James took the photo (below) until I viewed the digital camera later…I said a prayer for my (deceased) parents after lighting a candle for them.

Photo Copyright James Hrkach

Photo Copyright James Hrkach

3. St. Maria Goretti Church, Runnemede, NJ – The Sacrament of Marriage

The last stop on my Sacramental Pilgrimage was to St. Maria Goretti Church (Holy Child Parish) in Runnemede, New Jersey. We actually attend this church several times a year when we visit New Jersey since it is close to my sister’s house.

Copyright James Hrkach

Copyright James Hrkach

May 1982, St. Maria Goretti Church. Copyright Ellen Hrkach

May 1982, St. Maria Goretti Church. Copyright Ellen Hrkach

My Sacramental Pilgrimage was a day of fond memories, prayers and gratitude for the beautiful gift of my Catholic Faith. I highly recommend it to all who are able to visit the church of their Baptism (and other sacraments as time allows.)

Is the Church of your Baptism nearby or faraway? How easy or difficult would it be for you to make a Sacramental Pilgrimage? Feel free to comment below.

Copyright 2013 Ellen Gable Hrkach

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20 thoughts on “Sacramental Pilgrimage in the Year of Faith

  1. I love it! I am already planning my pilgrimage! Question…..do we have to have a bishop bless us to receive as it seems to say in the article? Thanks Ellen, we are working with a group of fine Catholics who are about to make a solemn renewal of their baptismal promises as adults and with all their hearts.

    God’s timing is amazing! We do serve an amazing God, don’t we?! 

    Carol Margetts “Have I not told you that if you believe you will see the glory of God?” John 11:40 Home 570/443-7678 Cell    908/591-5863

    ________________________________

  2. Thank you, Carol! The article says the bishop “may” impart his blessing. I didn’t get a bishop’s blessing. I just did this on my own. Making a baptismal pilgrimage is only one way to receive the plenary indulgence, though. There are other ways to do son in the Year of Faith. This was the most emotional in many respects because of the memories it evoked.

  3. Ellen, I love the photo essay that goes along with your post. Beautiful. And it distills your life and the lives of your parents in such a poignant way.

    For me it would take: 1800 miles – or so – for the baptismal pilgrimage. Then 150 – or so – from there for RCIA, and another 240 for the sacrament of marriage. Then 1800 miles back home. The only thing that makes it more possible than less possible is that most of those sites are in the town where our extended family lives or on the way to it. The baptism is the only one out of the way, but it’s within the realm of possibility.

    Thanks for the suggestion! For what it’s worth, we attend the parish where we received the sacrament of marriage all the time when we do visit family back home. We spent all of Holy Week with that parish this year, and it was a powerful experience.

    • Beautiful, Leslie, and thanks so much! For some of the faithful, a Baptismal (or Sacramental) Pilgrimage is more of a challenge than others. I’m glad I was able to do this and I probably wouldn’t have thought to do so without the decree for the Plenary Indulgence!

  4. Love the idea, but unfortunately both churches I received my Sacraments in have been closed for many years. So this is not possible for me to do.

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  7. The sacramental pilgrimage idea is great. Photos were a lovely addition. I’ve visited the parish where I received First Confession, First Holy Communion, and Confirmation some years ago. Like you, it struck me how small it seemed. When I was very young it seemed quite large.

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