A van transports the Catholic pilgrims on certain legs of their trips, but they also use their own legs quite a bit.
A van transports the Catholic pilgrims on certain legs of their trips, but they also use their own legs quite a bit.
There are certainly many ways to spend one’s vacation days.
For the Rev. Andrew Kurz, associate pastor at St. Pius X Catholic Parish in Appleton, vacation presents a golden opportunity to do what he considers very fulfilling—conduct a pilgrimage or spiritual journey to various shrines and chapels in northeastern Wisconsin.
Fr. Kurz said, “We have many well-known and lesser-known chapels in this part of the state, and I thought it would be wonderful to make a connected route for people to follow. I tried a few walks myself several years ago, then small groups of people joined me and we’ve walked a full pilgrimage route since October 2013.” He continued, “I consider leading a pilgrimage to be a kind of ‘apostolic hobby’ of mine.... I love to share the experience.”
Fr. Kurz is encouraged to organize such pilgrimages by Bishop David Ricken, DD, JCL, of the Catholic Diocese of Green Bay; however, participants sign a waiver to indicate understanding that it is not a Diocesan-sponsored nor particular parish event, but rather their own personal spiritual quest or independent holiday.
Pilgrimages are usually three-day (Saturday to Tuesday) events, and involve a combination of walking and shuttling by van to sites and accommodations along the route. The itinerary varies slightly depending on conditions and month of the year, and includes a few “tourist-type” stops as well as religious focal points. Fr. Kurz led four pilgrimages in 2016—in May, June, late August, and October. The latest route two weeks ago included a journey from St. Thomas in Humboldt, east of Green Bay, to the Shrine of Our Lady of Good Help near the town of Champion, where the group prayed a rosary. They spent time at the Curran Spirituality Center and made a brief visit to Carmelite Nuns at the Monastery of the Holy Name near Denmark, also swinging past the Devil’s River Waterfall and stopping for an ice cream along the way.
The pilgrims next travelled backroads to St. Nazianz, where there are four Marion chapels in close proximity. They hiked to Our Lady of Loretto Chapel overlooking Lake Oswald before spending an overnight at Holy Resurrection Monastery, enjoying the hospitality of the Orthodox monks there and visiting the Chapel of Theotokos, Searcher for the Lost. In the morning, the group was transported a few miles outside the village to see Our Lady of Loucim statue in Lax Chapel off CTH C, and finally walked from that location for two miles to Mary, Queen of Our Hearts Chapel in Steinthal, north of Kiel. After a brief tour, presentation of the history of the area and the chapel, and recitation of prayers, Fr. Kurz and friends drove to nearby Henning Cheese Factory and Museum for a visit, then to Elkhart Lake for a late lunch. The band of pilgrims spent an afternoon walking along the Kettle Moraine Scenic Road to St. Matthias Catholic Church, formerly a parish, now a chapel near New Fane, north of Kewaskum. At dusk, the group shuttled to Camp Vista near Dundee, briefly picking up food supplies in order to cook their own community meal.
The next morning after breakfast, they went by van to Pike Lake State Park, climbing the tower overlook to absorb the colorful autumn view, before walking the Ice Age Trail to the National Shrine of Mary at Holy Hill in Hubertus. The travelers observed the outdoor Stations of the Cross and enjoyed a picnic on the premises. While there, Fr. Kurz celebrated Mass in the Mary Help of Christians Chapel, and guests spent a few minutes browsing the Basilica’s gift shop. Everyone was transported to Green Bay after reaching the finale highlight on the pilgrimage.
The driver of the van was a volunteer from St. Thomas the Apostle Parish in Humboldt, who has come forward to do so on six of 10 pilgrimages. The seven pilgrims on this latest trip hailed mostly from the Green Bay Diocese, several having jobs related to the Catholic Church, three being repeat travelers, four being first-timers. One guest was from Minnesota and had learned about the pilgrimage via an internet Web site article on www.wisconsinway.com.

The Rev. Kurz had been serving at St. Joseph Parish near Champion before taking his current assignment in Appleton, and looks forward to continuing to provide spiritual growth experiences for Christian pilgrims during his future vacation days.