Commentary — Let’s celebrate the local church together with the pilgrims

Tim Tomes

I hope you have already heard of the National Eucharistic Pilgrimage that began the weekend of Pentecost Sunday, May 18-19. Four pilgrimages started a journey that weekend from the four corners of the United States. 

The Juan Diego Route that started in Brownsville, Texas, is the southern route and will pass through the Archdiocese of Louisville. The other three routes began in the north, west and east. By now, the Juan Diego pilgrims have passed through Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, and Alabama and are in Tennessee, heading north to Indianapolis. 

Before long, the pilgrims will enter Kentucky in the Diocese of Owensboro and will continue into the Archdiocese of Louisville July 4, Independence Day. The pilgrims will be with us for a total of six days and will be visiting a selection of the Kentucky Holy Land parishes and religious communities before heading to Louisville for more parish and site visits. 

These Perpetual Pilgrims are coming a long way to bring the Lord to you. It really is amazing. Early route discussions last year completely bypassed the Kentucky Holy Land, so we are very lucky to have the pilgrims visiting nearly 20 sites all throughout our archdiocese.

While each site will be special, I am particularly excited about the last stop on July 9 at Louisville’s Big Four Bridge. At the foot of the bridge in Louisville, members of our local Church (this means you) and others will gather at 6 p.m. After a short prayer, the faithful will process with our Lord in the form of the Eucharist across the one-mile walking bridge that connects Louisville and Jeffersonville, Ind.  

Waiting for our Lord on the Indiana side of the bridge will be the gathered faithful of the Archdiocese of Indianapolis, mostly Catholics of the New Albany Deanery counties of Harrison, Floyd and Clark. What a historic moment this will be to witness Catholics from both sides of the Ohio River, joining in unison to bring our Lord to the whole community. 

It’s going to be amazing! Surely he will smile on us that day. This is a good time to start praying for good weather and an abundance of parking spots. 

The procession across the bridge will be historic for many reasons, but this is not the first time our local churches have come together. We’ve been coming together since the very beginning when our two territories were once known as the Diocese of Bardstown, comprised of 10 states, including Indiana and Kentucky. 

Benedict Joseph Flaget, a French Sulpician, would become its first bishop in 1808 and his good friend, Simon Brute, also a Sulpician, would later be the first Bishop of Vincennes, Ind., in 1834. At the time both bishops would protest their being named to their episcopal sees, fearing not being worthy of the task, but their pleas fell on deaf ears. Also during this time, Father Stephen Badin, the Proto-Priest of the United States, would minister all over Kentucky, Indiana and other areas of the Ohio Valley.  

Unfortunately, our shared histories are not all happy. Slavery existed in both Indiana and Kentucky in the late 1700s and into 1800s. Indiana outlawed it in its constitution when it became a state in 1816, but as a border state, the abuses continued here and there. Years later, slavery in Kentucky was outlawed with the ratification of the 13th Amendment in December 1865. Before this time, enslaved peoples in Kentucky, some of them Catholic, would cross the Ohio River into Indiana with the help of what is now called the Underground Railroad. In Indiana, a better chance at freedom was to be found. These wounds still hurt today.

Another example of our shared histories is that in 1910, the Diocese of Indianapolis sent to Louisville its auxiliary bishop, the Most Reverend Denis O’Donaghue, who was Bishop of Louisville from 1910-1924. Charles C. Thompson, a priest of the Archdiocese of Louisville, was named the Bishop of Evansville in 2011 and later Archbishop of Indianapolis in 2017. And let’s not forget the hundreds, if not thousands, of priests trained over the years by St. Meinrad Seminary and School of Theology for which both of our local Churches in Indiana and Kentucky have benefited. 

Heck, I might as well throw my name into the hat. Honestly, I have the best of both worlds. I was born a Kentuckian at Louisville’s St. Anthony Hospital and raised a Hoosier in New Albany. I attended Holy Family Church and School where I received the sacraments of Baptism and First Communion. 

Later, my family moved to Lanesville, Ind., where both of my parents grew up, and we attended St. Mary Church, where my mother’s early German ancestors helped to establish the parish in the 1840s. Another branch of the family attended St. Michael in Dogwood, Ind., the first church in Harrison County and of what is today the Archdiocese of Indianapolis. Here the early pioneer missionaries, Flaget, Badin, Brute and others would stop on their way to Vincennes.  

Youth ministry has always been strong in the New Albany Deanery and, because of this strength, I was able to keep my Catholic faith healthy and alive through robust high school retreats and youth activities. 

Not long after, the Cathedral of the Assumption caught my attention and I’ve never looked back. It was here that I first developed my love for archives and for our deep, rich local Church histories, both in Kentucky and Indiana. It is a true privilege to do what I do as the archivist for the Archdiocese of Louisville.

Now, let’s get back to the July 9 event on the Big Four Pedestrian Bridge with the National Eucharistic Pilgrimage and its Perpetual Pilgrims. We will gather at the base of the curved ramp on the Louisville side before 6 p.m. when we will then process up the ramp, over the bridge and down into Indiana. Current plans call for both Archbishop of Louisville Shelton J. Fabre and Archbishop of Indianapolis Charles C. Thompson to begin together on the Louisville side. Come join me and the many, many faithful members of shared local churches and be a part of history.

Tim Tomes is the archivist for the Archdiocese of Louisville.

The Record
Written By
The Record
More from The Record
An Encouraging Word – Imagine, believe, achieve
Believe that you will receive it and it will be yours. Mark...
Read More
Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *