It is Good that You Exist

Together through these unique faith experiences, young people learn to find their place within the Church and realize that their significance is carefully created as part of a divine plan.

Catholic pilgrimages come in all shapes and sizes. Whether it’s El Camino de Santiago, Medjugorje, or the Holy Land, holy destinations have the power to lift souls to new heights and hopes. The value of a pilgrimage can be immense and perhaps most especially on young people. Inherent in youth is the quest for knowledge. Young people are often searching for meaning, for purpose, for significance. Thus, when 53 young people from two local parishes traveled to the National Mall on a pilgrimage for the March for Life, they found powerful answers in the journey.

Thanks to the generosity of a Flatley Foundation grant, youth from Immaculate Conception parish in Marlborough and St. John the Baptist-St. Joseph Collaborative in Quincy departed for Washington D.C. on January 18th. With their pilgrimage theme as “It is Good that You Exist,” they began their journey at the Shrine of St. Frances Cabrini in New York. There, they celebrated Mass and had an opportunity to learn about St. Frances’ founding of the Missionary Sisters of the Sacred Heart of Jesus and her important work with immigrants.

After departing N.Y., the young pilgrims continued to D.C. and stopped at St. Matthew’s Cathedral for praise and worship, adoration and confession. Throughout the weekend, they attended a large March for Life rally, interacted with many priests and religious sisters, and prayed the rosary with Cardinal Seán O’Malley as they marched together at the National Mall.

Newly returned from the experience, the young men and women had an opportunity to assess and analyze their thoughts about their pilgrimage. They were challenged to think deeply about what it meant to be part of a national movement to protect life threatened by abortion. And they had a chance to discern how the experience impacted them and their faith. Below are some of the young people’s reflections and insights.

At each step along our pilgrimage, the divine presence guided our path. On the way home, we carried not only memories but also a renewed spirit.” -Pedro

“The pilgrimage helped me realize what abortion really is. After listening to stories about people who have had an abortion and the regrets that they have, my perspective changed from pro-choice to pro-life. Also, Father Matt’s testimony at the Cathedral opened my eyes and my heart and I felt the presence of the Holy Spirit.” -Laura

“The pilgrimage not only helped me increase my faith but it also helped me understand that all lives matter and that we should stand up for those who can’t speak for themselves. It also helped me become closer to God and understand that we are all made with a purpose for our lives. For me personally, this pilgrimage was a sign from God that it is time that I really focus on my faith and continue on the path to heaven. My faith is so much stronger now than it was before the trip. I am so grateful.” -Nathalia

“I loved the retreat. It was an eye-opening experience. We learned to look at something, think of how it was made and how long it took to make it… just like God and the hard work He put into making us. The retreat helped me see the way people so openly love the Lord. It made me realize that I can love him so much more.” – Anonymous

“I am 16 years old, and I participated in this event because many friends and family members invited me to go. I will never forget this pilgrimage. I returned so happy and so very loved by God. I had a great opportunity to talk to God and tell him everything I wanted. The event showed me that abortion is not the way to go, and it also showed me that my life has meaning. God himself put me on earth. I had an opportunity to talk to him alone in the Chapel where I was not distracted by the world outside.” -Daniel

Learning to journey through life by leaning on faith and equipping themselves against spiritual battles is important for adolescents. Pilgrimages open their hearts and minds to the work of the Holy Spirit and, as the Catechism of the Catholic Church states, “evoke our earthly journey toward heaven and are special occasions for renewal in prayer.” (CCC2691). Together through these unique faith experiences, young people learn to find their place within the Church and realize that their significance is carefully created as part of a divine plan. Most importantly, they can feel the Holy Spirit at work in them, lifting them to a higher purpose and reminding them that… it is good that they exist.

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