September 13, 2023 at 10:13 a.m.

Way of Martyrs October pilgrimage

Find out how to join the walk from the Cathedral to Auriesville
Pilgrims are seen making the journey from southern France to Santiago de Compostela, Spain -- a famous Catholic pilgrimage site -- in this 2018 photo. The shot was taken during filming of the 2018 PBS documentary "Walking the Camino: Six Ways to Santiago," which follows pilgrims as they make the popular 500-mile hike. (CNS photo/courtesy
Pilgrims are seen making the journey from southern France to Santiago de Compostela, Spain -- a famous Catholic pilgrimage site -- in this 2018 photo. The shot was taken during filming of the 2018 PBS documentary "Walking the Camino: Six Ways to Santiago," which follows pilgrims as they make the popular 500-mile hike. (CNS photo/courtesy (Courtesy photo of (handout))

By Fathers Daniel Quinn and Stephen Yusko | Comments: 0 | Leave a comment

From the very origins of our great faith, the idea of pilgrimage has remained fixed in the hearts and minds of the Christian people. In fact, throughout salvation history people of faith have been continuously reminded that we are “strangers in a strange land;” pilgrims, who with each step, whether heavy or light, in sorrow or in joy, are journeying toward our true and eternal homeland: heaven. Yes, the pilgrimage and the pilgrim spirit are embedded within the very essence of our faith. And so, it is not surprising that the firm tradition of making a pilgrimage to a holy place has naturally sprouted from the rich soil of devout hearts yearning for a foretaste of the heavenly paradise. 

From Jerusalem to Rome; Niardos along the way of St. Olaf to Canterbury, England; from Fatima, Guadalupe and Lourdes to Santiago in Compostela, Spain, pilgrims in every era and of all walks of life have been moved by the Holy Spirit to go out on pilgrimage to seek the living Christ. And this tradition has not remained fruitless, for over the last 2,000 years the pilgrimage has helped to reinvigorate and reanimate the faith, hope and charity of both pilgrims and patrons, while also renewing and revivifying the land in which the pilgrim sets his feet.

Such is the lesson that many pilgrims have learned over the years. A lesson that we also experienced when walking the 500 miles to the tomb of St. James in Spain, known as the “Camino de Santiago de Compostela.” On a pilgrimage such as this, we encountered countless souls who voluntarily emptied themselves of the world, with its possessions, comforts, schedules, expectations, plans and biases, in a quest for truth, meaning, answers, healing and pardon, but most of all, for God. This is what the pilgrimage afforded them and us, and while many who walk it may not be fully converted to our beautiful faith, most certainly leave more open and oriented toward God, and with this orientation, they “reenter” the world more open to who He wills them to be. And how could this not be when each day they encountered parishes, priests and religious groups offering housing, food and encouragement, as well as the Sacraments of Reconciliation and the Eucharist along the way? These are just some of the priceless gifts and experiences that a pilgrimage affords a pilgrim soul.

It is the idea of bringing this experience home to the Diocese of Albany that God has placed into our hearts, as we are blessed to be located between two Holy Shrines: The National Shrine of Divine Mercy in Stockbridge, Mass., and the Shrine of the North American Martyrs in Auriesville (which is conveniently located on the Empire State/Erie Canalway Trail and which allows the pilgrim to follow in the footsteps of the Jesuit missionaries along the Mohawk River before arriving at their place of martyrdom and the birthplace of St. Kateri Tekakwitha).

And so, last October, after a year of planning a route between these two shrines, we set out, amidst the vibrant autumn leaves, on a 100-mile pilgrimage which we have aptly named “Via Misericordiae,” and “Via Martyrum” (Way of Mercy, Way of Martyrs), in order to make the pilgrimage ourselves and to inspect the safety of the proposed route. Over a period of about five-and-a-half days we walked safely along busy highways and quiet country roads, down sidewalks and city streets, praying together and conversing about a number of topics — from our families and vocations to “Star Wars” and “Star Trek” — while staying in rectories along the way, enjoying the hospitality of the people we encountered.

Having successfully completed the planning and testing phase of the pilgrimage process it was our intention to build this route up by marking it with signs and trail markers; by producing a guidebook with suggestions for accommodations and helpful resources along the way, as well as the history of the local shrines and saints, with spiritual reflections; and by facilitating hospitality between shrines, parishes and pilgrims.

However, in God’s providence we learned this spring that the eight dioceses and two eparchies in New York have planned to hold a Eucharistic Congress at the National Shrine of North American Martyrs from Oct. 20-22, in order to revitalize and foster faith and devotion in the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist. And so, in anticipation of this great event, moving with the Spirit, we thought that an abbreviated version of this pilgrimage would perfectly complement the Congress.

Therefore, from Oct. 17-20, we will be walking from the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception in Albany to the Shrine of the North American Martyrs in Auriesville. It is our hope that through this pilgrimage the faithful will encounter Christ anew as they make their way from the Mother Church of the Diocese to the Shrine, just as Christ encountered the disciples as they made their way from Jerusalem to Emmaus, where He ultimately revealed Himself to them in the “breaking of the bread.”

With a limit of 50 registered pilgrims, we will walk together the 57.8 miles, primarily along the Empire State Trail, and stay overnight at Holy Trinity in Cohoes, St. Anthony in Schenectady, and Our Lady of Mount Carmel on the South Side of Amsterdam.  While all are invited to join us on any part of this pilgrimage, we would like to encourage as many people as possible to join us on the final day, Friday, Oct. 20, to walk the last six miles of the pilgrimage, from Mount Carmel to the Shrine in Auriesville, which we intend to walk as a Eucharistic procession, sharing the monstrance — carrying duties with any priests and deacons who would like to help. We will conclude at the shrine with enough time to get settled before the Congress begins that evening at 6 p.m.

We hope that this abbreviated version of the pilgrimage will enhance the Eucharistic Congress and lead to an establishment of the complete route, and perhaps even extend to other shrines throughout North America (We’re looking at you Canada)!

For more information on the pilgrimage, head to


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