“Walk to Jerusalem” encourages faithful to spiritual and physical fitness

by Kristina Lahr | New Earth


Left to right, Joan and Harold Mondry, Father Brian Moen, and Joan Schanilec stand beside a map that marked the progress of an “imaginary” pilgrimage from Minto to Jerusalem. (submitted photo)

“We, as pilgrims on the ‘Walk to Jerusalem,’ have come to the end of our wonderful, spiritual journey to Jerusalem,” said Harold and Joan Mondry, parishioners of Sacred Heart Church in Minto. “It has reshaped our spiritual well-being through our daily rosaries, morning Mass at Sacred Heart, weekend Mass and the Divine Mercy Chaplet.”

“Walk to Jerusalem” is a 12-week program that Sacred Heart Church began on Jan. 9 and completed April 1, Easter Sunday. Each of the 66 participants from Sacred Heart, Minto and surrounding parishes took the challenge to be more spiritually and physically fit as they embarked on an “imaginary” pilgrimage to Jerusalem.

“It was fun to track where we were each week,” said Joan Schanilec, also a parishioner of Sacred Heart. “After the first week, we were in Lake Superior, then Ottawa, then we were in the Atlantic Ocean for several weeks.”

The program comes with a formula that converts time with each activity to miles. Praying a rosary, reading scripture, attending daily Mass or adoration, as well as walking, lifting weights, playing sports, or shoveling snow were just a handful of the ways to take steps toward Jerusalem. Each week, participants kept track of their prayers and exercises and sent their recordings to the parish. Then, the bulletin printed their progress and current location on their way to Jerusalem.

“Most people I’ve talked to about the program say it’s been an eye opener,” said Schanilec. “They realize, ‘hey, I could be doing more.’ Some people were more focused on the physical side of the program at first, but eventually were motivated to participate in the spiritual side too.”

Father Brian Moen, pastor of Sacred Heart Church in Minto, and Joan Schanilec tweaked the program a bit to emphasize prayer. For example, participants could receive extra miles for praying a rosary or going to adoration. Joan was happy to see that they kept setting records each week for the number of minutes everyone was recording.

She added, “What else is really awesome is that the program includes everyone, little children to elderly. Our youngest participant was eight months old. She’s with her family when they pray together and even has her own prayer book and Bible.”

Joan also mentioned that January was the perfect time to begin the program since people were already looking for New Year’s resolutions. Then several weeks into it, Lent began, and the program became a good way for people to live out a renewed prayer life.

“While participating in the ‘Walk to Jerusalem’ program, we noticed that the members of our family developed a stronger relationship with God as individuals and as a family,” said Alissa Parsons, a parishioner at St. John’s Church in Grafton. “It has influenced the way we treat one another. We have become more loving, caring and understanding. This has been a great way for our family to grow as Christians and as a family.”

For some, the program wasn’t just “imaginary.” For Father Moen, Father Neil Pfeifer, pastor of St. Philip Neri Church in Napoleon, Joan Schanilec and several parishioners in the area, it was a way to prepare spiritually and physically for their real journey to Jerusalem in early April.

“I was motivated to pray more, as I usually am during Lent,” said Lynn Lane, parishioner of Sacred Heart Church. “The ‘Walk to Jerusalem’ program offered an incentive to do just that with the reward of metaphorically arriving in Jerusalem… the very place Jesus was during his life and death. I believe that these weeks have formed new and good habits in my life that I hope will continue.”

The program comes with a book, CD, and log sheets for each week for just $35. There is also a “Walk to Bethlehem” program for the weeks leading up to Christmas. For more information, go to www.chreader.org/walk-to-jerusalem/.