The event, organized by Archbishop Gustavo García-Siller and the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of San Antonio, was held in celebration of the international World Youth Day, which is held every three years. This year’s event took place in Kraków, Poland.
San Antonio’s mission-to-mission camino was one of many “stateside” celebrations that occurred around the nation Saturday.
This year’s theme was: “Blessed are the merciful for they shall obtain mercy” (Mt. 5:7).
When the crowd – largely made up of various local church groups – gathered at Mission Concepción, the archbishop shared a few words to start the morning’s festivities.
“World Youth Day gives the world a profound witness of the vibrant and youthful nature of our faith, providing great hope for the future,” he said. “Today we pray especially for all you young people who are not just the future of the Church, but also bring great blessings to it today.”
The archbishop asked the crowd about who and what they were praying for that morning, bringing to mind the number of injustices and violence plaguing our world today.
“Will you raise up in prayer refugees and immigrants who are lost on their journey to escape the tyranny of poverty, violence, and the many evils society inflicts on the least of our brothers and sisters?” he asked. “Will you ask that they know that God’s mercy is present and waiting for them to ask?”
Then, the pilgrimage began. Throughout the hour-long walking journey, participants prayed silently and out loud. The archbishop walked through the crowd, blessing people as they passed him.
The archbishop said that the camino was a chance for each person “to walk in the footsteps and the holy memory of all those who built our missions as sacred places of faith.”
Finally, the group approached Mission San José where a surfeit of people awaited them outside the church, cheering and singing as they entered through the Doors of Mercy for a special mass led by the archbishop. A concert by Christian rock band Paradise Awaiting followed outside the mission, where the majority of the youth enthusiastically danced and sang along to the music.
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The pilgrimage was held along Mission Road to highlight the missions’ status as nationally and internationally-recognized pilgrimage sites. It also was a way to get more residents and visitors, young and old, to the area that will soon be changing due to the World Heritage designation the mission and the Alamo received in July 2015.
But “a pilgrimage is more than a family outing, or a visit to a tourist attraction,” the archbishop said. “Our journey of faith is a pilgrimage when we prayerfully seek to touch and be touched by the sacred.
“Our pilgrimage unites our prayer with the thousands of our brothers and sisters in Kraków as they raise their voices in faith and seek God’s mercy.”
Top image: Heaven welcomes the processors to Mission San José. Photo by Kathryn Boyd-Batstone.