‘Notre Dame Trail’ pilgrimage saluted school’s spirit, founders and Mary

By John Shaughnessy | Catholic News Service
Thursday, September 21, 2017

Notre Dame trail

Approximately 3,500 pilgrims made their way to the Notre Dame campus on Aug. 26, 2017, the last day of the "Notre Dame Trail" pilgrimage.
From left: Holy Cross Father Austin I. Collins, religious superior of Holy Cross Priests and Brothers at Notre Dame; Notre Dame president emeritus, Holy Cross Father Edward A. “Monk” Malloy; and Notre Dame president Holy Cross Father John I. Jenkins lead approximately 3,500 pilgrims into Holy Cross Community Cemetery past the grave of the university’s founder, Holy Cross Father Edward Sorin, on Aug. 26, the final day of the Notre Dame Trail. (Photo by Barbara Johnston/University of Notre Dame)
Nearly 3,500 pilgrims, including the University of Notre Dame marching band, walked the final three miles of the Notre Dame Trail from South Bend’s Howard Park to campus Aug. 26. (Photo by Matt Cashore/University of Notre Dame)

At 80, Holy Cross Brother Larry Stewart planned to walk and bike a 320-mile pilgrimage that is close to his heart and his faith.

It was a journey that honored the spirit of the Holy Cross men who traveled through Indiana during a brutal early winter 175 years ago to establish the University of Notre Dame in South Bend, Indiana.

The pilgrimage, called the “Notre Dame Trail,” took place Aug. 13-26. It recalled a journey that began long ago in the Diocese of Vincennes, where the roots of the Archdiocese of Indianapolis started.

“It’s just a thrill to take part in the history of this,” said Brother Larry, who was looking for a new challenge after completing coast-to-coast bicycle rides across the United States when he was 60 and 70. “I’ve always enjoyed a challenge.”

This one was far more meaningful to him as it saluted Holy Cross Father Edward Sorin and the Holy Cross brothers who traveled with him from France to the United States — and those who forged onward from Vincennes to South Bend on a journey that led to the founding of Notre Dame in 1842.

“That journey was unbelievable,” said Brother Larry, one of 32 people who signed up to do the entire pilgrimage. “When they were traveling to South Bend in November, it was one of the worst winters in the history of Indiana. And they made it in 11 days. They had horses, oxen and wagons. They traveled one day 11 miles in the snow. And the snow was a foot deep.

“Father Sorin had a great devotion to Our Lady, and he showed it with the golden dome and the statue of the Blessed Mother atop it,” he added in an interview with the Criterion, the newspaper of the Archdiocese of Indianapolis.

Notre Dame wanted to honor that faith, that spirit and that determination as it celebrates its 175th anniversary, and the pilgrimage was a major part of that effort.
“We wanted to do something distinct — to focus on our humble beginnings, but to also look to the future,” said Katherine Lane, senior director of the Notre Dame Trail.

Even with all the changes that have occurred on the campus in 175 years, “the mission of the place is still the same as it was when Father Sorin founded it,” Lane said. “Father Sorin wrote that ‘The university would be a means for good in this nation.’ That mission has been carried out since the beginning, and so has the devotion to Mary.”

Preparation for the pilgrimage was painstaking in its detail. In June 2016, Lane was among a group of five people who traveled to Spain to walk the ancient pilgrimage route known as “el Camino” in Spanish and “the Way” in English. The journey of 780 kilometers — or about 500 miles — eventually leads to the shrine of St. James at Santiago de Compostela.

Lane and her companions walked 100 kilometers of el Camino, enough to get a sense of the demands of such a journey — and the emphasis they wanted to give to the Notre Dame Trail.

“They call the Camino ‘the Way of St. James,’” she said. “The Notre Dame Trail will be ‘the Way of Mary.’”

Lane began walking the route for the Notre Dame Trail last summer, following a path that began in Vincennes and wove north through Terre Haute, Lafayette, Logansport and Plymouth before ending on the Notre Dame campus.

“While it will be a physical challenge, it will also be a spiritual journey,” she said. “There will be a lot of time for reflection and prayer. It’s been a beautiful experience so far. I’ve really fallen in love with the trail.”

She also gained a deeper appreciation of Sorin and the Holy Cross brothers who made the original journey.

“They had this faith in God and this devotion to Mary like no other,” she said. “They were so determined. No one was going to get in their way.”
Brother Larry embodies that same spirit for her.

“He’s celebrating his 60th jubilee, and the pilgrimage is how he has chosen to do this,” Lane said.

Brother Larry began preparing for the Notre Dame Trail last October, doing training sessions of eight miles of walking and 21 miles on a bike. 

“With all my walking and training, I use my fingers for saying the rosary,” said Brother Larry. “All of us in the Holy Cross congregation have a strong devotion to the Blessed Mother. She was an inspiration for Father Sorin and all the brothers who came. So I’m pleased to be involved in this.”

On the last day of the trail — Aug. 26 — Notre Dame invited its students, alumni, parents and other supporters to join the pilgrimage for the last three miles to campus. After the pilgrimage reaches Notre Dame that morning, a Mass marked the 175th anniversary.


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