Gaining peace from pilgrimage
Mike and Dawn Vlaminck and 10 youths from St. Edward's Church recently embarked on a pilgrimage to Colorado.
"This is the second year for the trip," said Dawn. "I'm thinking of making it an annual pilgrimage now."
The youth that took the pilgrimage this year were: Natalie Bach, Kaci Callens, Kate Hennen, Lane Loyson, Kaitlyn Ludwikowski, Halle Pederson, Georgia Rabaey, Maddy VanKeulen, Joe Verschelde, and Dylan Vlaminck.
Because of the COVID pandemic, Catholic retreats and other outings were forced to be cancelled last year. Dawn teaches a ninth-grade religious education class at St. Edward's and decided to take the kids to a pilgrimage to Colorado last year. It turned out to be so successful, that they went again this year.
"My hope for this pilgrimage is that our youth realize that sometimes we need to take a 'rest' from our busy schedules," Dawn revealed, "So we chose a place where we can hear God talking to us and show us what his plan is for our lives."
The youths were able to take photos with their phones but could not use them for anything else.
"It was probably hard for them at first, but no one complained or anything," said Dawn. "We wanted them to be in touch with their own feelings."
The pilgrimage this year was from July 14-18. They arrived in Golden, CO on the first day where they visited Mother Xavier Cabrini's Shrine, a beautiful Catholic shrine where people go to pray, explore and visit.The 12 of them stayed in a rented cabin near Bailey, CO, a small community surrounded by mountain forests. The cabin included a private lake for canoeing and other activities.
"The group went to morning Mass and spent the morning hiking the stations of the cross, which ascend the mountain and rosary garden," Dawn said. "We were also able to pray for the intentions of our loved ones and drink from the healing waters of Mother Cabrini's spring. It was a moving experience for all of us."
Continuing the first day, the group took a 37-mile drive into the town of Golden, a town of over 21,000 people. They bought some pizza with the hopes of eating lunch at Red Rock's Amphitheatre, a popular outdoor amphitheater built entirely out of red rock where people can go to relax, read or enjoy lunch.
"Unfortunately, we were turned away at the gate because they were holding sound checks that afternoon," Dawn told. "We were very disappointed but found a nice ledge to enjoy our pizza."
After lunch, they traveled north to Saint Catherine of Sienna's Chapel on the Rock.
"This is a beautiful church where we enjoyed a holy hour and prayed the Divine Mercy Chaplet with the curators," said Dawn.
The second day of the pilgrimage consisted of a hike up to Saint Mary's Glacier where they spent time in prayer and then had lunch neat the glacier.
"A few were brave enough to jump into the very cold glacial lake and we enjoyed a snowball fight," said Dawn. "That's something you just don't see in July."
The final day, they traveled to Buena Vista to go river rafting.
"My group was led by 2004 Olympic silver medalist in the high jump, Matt Hemingway," Dawn said.
They then visited a nearby hot spring before an afternoon storm cut the remaining plans for the day short.
The Vlamincks chose the site of the pilgrimage in the mountain areas of Colorado for obvious reasons.
"I feel it is much easier for our youth to hear God when they are in nature," Dawn said. "God is not only in church. We wanted the kids to get out and enjoy His creation. When Jesus needed rest and time to pray, where did He go? Up the mountain. So that's what we did."