Diocese of Lake Charles
LAKE CHARLES — Modeled after a Holy Week tradition begun in Rome in the 16thcentury, more than 70 people took to the streets of Lake Charles to participate in a Seven Church Walk on Good Friday.
Hosted by the Religious Sisters of Mercy, this was the first time for the pilgrimage in the Diocese of Lake Charles. Sister Mary Benedicta Maier, R.S.M., said the idea of participating in a walk locally came about as she shared her past experiences with the Sisters.
“I became very excited as it personally brought back memories of when I participated, pre-convent days, in organizing the Seven Church Walk in Washington, D.C. with a young adult group,” she said. “I was then privileged to make the Seven Church Walk when I was assigned to Rome as a Sister in 2013.”
The origin of the walk, dating back to around 1553, is credited to St. Philip Neri. The tradition is still practiced today by Catholics around the world as a way for friends and family to worship together while seeing churches they might not otherwise visit.
Included in the local walk were the Convent for the Religious Sisters of Mercy, Catholic Charities of Southwest Louisiana (Chapel of St. Joseph), and the church parishes of Immaculate Heart of Mary, Sacred Heart of Jesus, St. Henry, St. Margaret of Scotland, and the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception. At each stop, Father Ruben Buller led participants in prayer meditating on the “Seven Last Words of Christ.”
With the diocese still recovering from back-to-back hurricanes from more than seven months ago, the Good Friday pilgrimage — totaling nine miles — offered an opportunity for people to see progress as well as areas of the city still trying to pick up the pieces.
Keagan LeJeune and his wife Melanie usually attend the annual Good Friday liturgy but were glad for the opportunity to add something to their Holy Week devotions.
“I thought that this walk, being for a longer period of time, would help us focus on what this day is all about,” said Melanie. “I also enjoyed getting outside and walking to see churches that we have never visited.”
Keagan commented on the amount of destruction still visible from the storms.
“The walk served as a reminder of how hard our city was hit and how much people are struggling to get back to normal,” said Keagan. “We are all recovering together. It was interesting to see how the different churches connect to the neighborhoods around them.”
Marty Berry also liked the idea of seeing, up close, areas still in need of restoration.
“I think it is wonderful to walk with the community and trace through our city after the hurricanes and see the various stages of recovery and where help is needed,” said Berry. “I had heard about the tradition of going church to church on Holy Thursday and visiting tabernacles for adoration during the night. What better way to contemplate Good Friday as we wait for the 3 o’clock service? This is perfect.”
Barbara Wyman, who participated in the walk with her husband Bruce, said she did not know what to expect ahead of the walk, but it was a pleasant surprise all around and hopes it will be a tradition in the Diocese of Lake Charles.
“I didn’t realize it was going to be community building,” Wyman said. “It ended up being faith building. At each stop, people became more excited to move on to the next church. I enjoyed seeing the inside of the churches. I had not been to Sacred Heart in ages. I also enjoyed seeing so many families participate.”
If not for Isabella Desormeaux’s younger brother Caleb, she said she might not have agreed to be a part of the Seven Church Walk.
“It really was my little brother who wanted to do this. I don’t like walking a lot, but I wanted to do it for him,” 11-year-old Bella said. “Since Christ died on the crucifix for us, I thought I should put in a little effort. It helped me put myself in Christ’s shoes since He had to walk everywhere.”
Bella was grateful for the beautiful day God provided for the walk, expressing that it was not as pretty of a day whenever Christ died. She was also happy to see so many different chapels in the same day.
“I liked being able to go at a slower pace and look through all the churches,” said Bella. “I was sad that the Eucharist was not exposed, but I understand why since it is Good Friday.”
As for Bella’s 8-year-old brother Caleb, he said he is glad he went on the walk and hopes he can participate next year. “I liked it. It was tiring but really fun,” he said. “Jesus died today. We should make a sacrifice, too.”
Sister Mary Benedicta said the Sisters were surprised at the high turnout.
“We had thought maybe 15 or so people would attend since the idea only unfolded a few weeks prior to the event,” she said. “We were pleased to see the response of the faithful. Everybody seemed so energized, and it was edifying to see people from all walks of life.”
“The pilgrimage brought hope to each of us Sisters and increased our faith,” Sister Mary Benedicta continued. “It was a beautiful way to enter into the mystery of Christ’s passion and death on Good Friday as we prepared for the Hour of Mercy.”
It is the hope of the Religious Sisters of Mercy to continue the Seven Church Walk annually in the Diocese.