National Eucharistic Pilgrimage travels through diocese May 21-24 on Junipero Serra route

As the National Eucharistic Pilgrimage traveled through the Diocese of Sacramento May 21-24, hundreds of parishioners of all ages became pilgrims along many stops at parishes and other venues for walking Eucharistic processions, adoration, Masses and youth events.

As the caravan carrying pilgrims and the monstrance housing the consecrated Eucharist headed east across Northern California, it also made stops Bishop Jaime Soto hoped would connect with different “marginalized populations,” including a Mass with farmworkers in Vallejo, a walking procession leaving from Folsom State Prison, a visit to a Sacramento ministry serving the homeless, and a maternity home in Placerville helping pregnant women in need.

The journey was one leg of four routes headed to the National Eucharistic Congress July 17-21 in Indianapolis, Indiana. The National Eucharistic Pilgrimage began from four points in the United States: the Archdiocese of San Francisco, the Diocese of Brownsville, Texas, the Diocese of Crookston, Minnesota and the Archdiocese of Hartford, Connecticut.

Each route began on Pentecost weekend and will arrive in Indianapolis on July 16. On May 18-19, pilgrimage activities were hosted by the Archdiocese of San Francisco in San Francisco and Marin counties, including a eucharistic procession across the Golden Gate Bridge span, with some 1,000 walkers. Two Franciscan Friars of the Renewal priests, two seminarians from the San Francisco Archdiocese, and six young adults from around the United States make up the eucharistic pilgrims in the caravan that is travelling the western route of 2,200 miles, named for St. Junipero Serra, the Franciscan friar and apostle of California.

Bishop Soto had the idea of moving parts of the route from land to water, having the Eucharist in the monstrance travel by boat on the Sacramento River. From May 21-22, the bishop, Deacon Kevin Staszkow (the lead planner for the pilgrimage’s four-day segment in the diocese and its daily activities), and other invited pilgrims accompanied the Blessed Sacrament aboard a 64-foot-boat (borrowed from a Catholic benefactor), with a small flotilla following in procession, making several stops along the Sacramento River.

St. Vincent Ferrer Church in Vallejo hosted Eucharistic adoration from 8:30 p.m. on May 20 to 8 a.m. on May 21. Bishop Soto, joined by Solano County priests and deacons, celebrated morning Mass on May 21 with school students and the parish community. (To read the text of the bishop’s homily, visit This day of the pilgrimage focused on farmworkers, who were remembered in prayer and encouraged to participate in the processions and liturgies on this day. A walking Eucharistic procession followed Mass, from the church to the Vallejo Municipal Marina on the Napa River.

The Eucharist then traveled by boat on the Napa River to the Benicia City Marina on the Carquinez Strait, where pilgrims arrived at 10:30 a.m. and were greeted by students from St. Dominic School, teachers, priests, deacons and parishioners. A procession to St. Dominic Church was led by the bishop and pastor, Dominican Father Andy Opsahl, and Dominican Father Gregory Liu, parochial vicar, for adoration inside St. Dominic Church. Following adoration, pilgrims and parishioners walked in procession, returning to the boat at the marina.

From 12 p.m. until 2:30 p.m., the boat traveled to the Rio Vista Public Boat Dock on the Sacramento River, where it was greeted by more than 100 parishioners from St. Joseph Parish in Rio Vista and other community members and city officials. Ron Kott, mayor of Rio Vista for the past seven years and longtime member of St. Joseph Parish, told Catholic Herald magazine, “It’s awesome that this procession and event can travel through our city to bring us all together, no matter what beliefs people may hold. It highlights the spiritual history of our community and holds special meaning for those of us who are Catholic.”

Elsa Vega, director of faith formation for St. Joseph Parish, and Carol Otten, who moved to Rio Vista two months ago to care for her elderly father, were among those awaiting the boat. “I saw this event listed in our local paper and wanted to be here,” Carol said. “I’ve been away from the church for about 40 years, and this event plus visiting St. Joseph Parish for confession is making me think about returning to practicing my faith.” Elsa added: “The Holy Spirit compelled all of us to be here. It’s a public way of following Jesus and expressing our faith in our community.”

As the faithful walked the half mile up Main Street to St. Joseph Church, pilgrims sang “Jesus, remember me, when you come into your kingdom,” and other songs and prayers. Father Mervin Concepcion, pastor of St. Joseph, led 30 minutes of adoration inside the church, where the crowd spilled out onto the front steps of the church. Father Paolo Dorrego, PES, pastor of St. Anthony Parish in Walnut Grove and St. Therese Parish in Isleton, gave reflections on the meaning of the Eucharist in the daily lives of the faithful.

Following eucharistic adoration, the boat left Rio Vista and sailed through the vertical lift in the middle of the Rio Vista Bridge (State Highway 12) and continued north on the Sacramento River for three hours to the Freeport Public Dock in Clarksburg. That evening at sunset, parishioners and friends joined in a eucharistic procession on the grounds of St. Joseph Parish, followed by adoration inside the church.

Day two of the pilgrimage began with a eucharistic procession by boat from Clarksburg to West Sacramento with many women religious from the diocese on the boat. This day focused on people experiencing homelessness, as the Blessed Sacrament was then transported to Friendship Park at Loaves & Fishes (homeless service provider) north of downtown Sacramento, for an outside service with adoration, with reflections offered by Deacon Rommel Declines of Good Shepherd Parish in Elk Grove, who serves on the charity’s board of directors.

At 11 a.m., hundreds of parishioners from across the diocese gathered at River Walk Park in West Sacramento for a eucharistic procession with Bishop Soto, walking east across the landmark Tower Bridge toward the state Capitol. Delegations of pilgrims from many parishes joined in, including more than 75 members from Good Shepherd Parish in Elk Grove, dozens from Vietnamese Martyrs Parish in Sacramento, and members from Sacred Heart Parish in Anderson who carpooled for the event.

Juanita Baier of Good Shepherd Parish, who was among the hundreds walking on Capitol Avenue and K Street to the Cathedral of the Blessed Sacrament on 11th and K Streets, noted that as the eucharistic procession passed on Capitol Avenue, construction workers on nearby buildings knelt down and removed their hard hats. A father with his children in tow on a bicycle dismounted the bike, paused, and knelt as the Blessed Sacrament passed.

Once the walkers were gathered in Cathedral Square, Bishop Soto led prayers before the monstrance containing the Blessed Sacrament on the steps of the Cathedral. Worshippers of all ages were inside as Bishop Soto presided at Mass, joined by several priests and deacons, followed by a period of eucharistic adoration inside the Cathedral until 4 p.m.

On May 23, Bishop Soto celebrated a private Mass in the morning for prisoners at Folsom State Prison. At 10:30 a.m. dozens joined in Eucharistic procession from the Folsom Prison parking lot to St. John the Baptist Parish, followed by Stations of the Cross and benediction in the courtyard. Inside the church, the faithful participated in music and meditation from 11:45 a.m. to 5 p.m., including confession, praying the rosary and the Chaplet of Divine Mercy.

That evening, youths, parents and friends joined in a youth worship night at Holy Trinity Church in El Dorado Hills, including Eucharistic adoration, testimonies, confession and music (with Aaron Santos) and reflections by Father Colin Wen, pastor of St. Katharine Drexel Parish in Martell.

Day four of the pilgrimage on May 24 focused on mothers in need and the environment. Bishop Soto celebrated Mass in the morning, joined by Father Hernando Gomez-Amaya, pastor, and Deacon Brian Smith in St. Patrick Church in Placerville. Pilgrims then walked to the nearby Mother Teresa Maternity Home for eucharistic adoration, returning after to the church for adoration.

At 3 p.m., the caravan with the Blessed Sacrament arrived at St. Theresa Church in South Lake Tahoe for a walking procession followed by eucharistic adoration until 4:45 p.m. Carmelite of Mary Immaculate Father Joseph Sebastian, parochial administrator, led the procession and offered reflections during adoration.

The pilgrimage’s portion in the diocese ended with a boat procession from Tahoe Keys in South Lake Tahoe at 5 p.m., when Bishop Soto again accompanied the Blessed Sacrament with the pilgrims of the Serra Route in a flotilla of boats on a 26-mile journey across Lake Tahoe at sunset. They arrived at St. Francis of Assisi Parish in Incline Village, Nevada, for a Eucharistic “handoff” to the neighboring Diocese of Reno. A Eucharistic procession at the parish served as a prayerful transition as the caravan left California and entered Nevada to continue its journey.


To view photos of the National Eucharistic Pilgrimage's journey through our diocese please visit the Diocese of Sacramento Facebook and Diocese of Sacramento Instagram accounts!