Fourth annual 'Rise from the Ashes' walking pilgrimage to pray for vocations

Participants in last year's Rise from the Ashes Pilgrimage arrive at the Basilica of Ste. Anne in Detroit in July 2022. This year's pilgrimage will span 38 miles from Monroe to Detroit, with participants praying for a culture of vocations along the way. (Courtesy photos)

Pilgrims will set out on foot Friday, July 21, from Monroe, completing two-and-a-half day journey to Basilica of Ste. Anne

MONROE — Pilgrims from across the Archdiocese of Detroit will trek 38 miles on foot over two and a half days beginning this week, praying for the local Church and building up a culture of vocations.

The fourth annual Rise from the Ashes Pilgrimage begins Friday, July 21, and concludes with the noon Sunday Mass at the Basilica of Ste. Anne in southwest Detroit on July 23. Those interested in joining can still register.

In the summer of 2020, a small group of Catholics from Monroe County started brainstorming how they could give witness to Christ and his Church during the COVID-19 pandemic. The group drew inspiration from Fr. Gabriel Richard, who helped guide the Church in Detroit through many of its toughest times in the early 19th century.

Among them, the pastor of Ste. Anne strengthened the city with his leadership following the devastating 1805 fire. Fr. Richard's words, “We hope for better things; it will rise from the ashes,” later became the official motto of Detroit. Nearly 20 years later, his relentless service to the sick during a cholera outbreak resulted in his own death.

Pilgrims pray before setting out from St. Mary Parish during last year's Rise from the Ashes walking pilgrimage. The pilgrimage takes inspiration from the life of Fr. Gabriel Richard.
Pilgrims pray before setting out from St. Mary Parish during last year's Rise from the Ashes walking pilgrimage. The pilgrimage takes inspiration from the life of Fr. Gabriel Richard.

With his example in mind, a walking pilgrimage that demonstrated the need for continuous repentance and renewal in the Archdiocese of Detroit began. The first year, a dozen participants walked nearly 50 miles over three and a half days from St. Joseph Parish in Erie to the Basilica of Ste. Anne, where Fr. Richard is buried in its side chapel.

George Strimpel, a parishioner at St. Mary, Our Lady of the Annunciation in Rockwood, has helped organize the pilgrimage from the beginning. “We are simply trying to follow in the footsteps of Fr. Richard,” Strimpel said.

While the route has been shortened since 2020, the number of walkers has increased each year. Nearly 40 joined last year’s journey, and organizers hope for 80 participants this year. Pilgrims pray the rosary, the Angelus, Divine Mercy Chaplet and other prayers in addition to sharing testimonies and having meaningful, Holy Spirit-led conversations about areas in need of renewal in the Church.

“I derive the greatest joy from engaging in conversations with others,” Strimpel said. “Each year, I have been pleasantly surprised by the opportunity to connect with faith-filled individuals and learn about their unique journeys and struggles.”

This year’s pilgrimage will begin the morning of Friday, July 21, at St. Mary of the Immaculate Conception Church in Monroe. After a departing blessing, pilgrims will meander through rural northern Monroe County on the first day of the journey, ending at St. Mary, Our Lady of the Annunciation Parish in Rockwood in the evening.

Stops along the way will include Ruth Masserant’s homestead — who has made Job’s tear rosaries since 1975 — and The Mitten Cafe & Bakeshop, a Catholic-owned eatery that specializes in sandwiches, sweets and coffee. Fr. Michael A. Anagbogu will join the pilgrims on the first day to lead a discussion about what can be done to build up a culture of priestly vocations.

Pilgrims walk through downtown Wyandotte during last year's pilgrimage.
Pilgrims walk through downtown Wyandotte during last year's pilgrimage.

“We recognize the need for more priests, deacons, sisters, and other vocations, and we will persistently pray for God to call men and women to answer the unique vocations He is inviting them to,” Strimpel said. “Our prayers along the journey also extend to families, desiring a culture within homes that nurtures a God-centered environment, fostering the growth of vocations.”

The first day will conclude with dinner served by St. Mary's parishioners, as well as nightly euchre games.

Pilgrims will begin the second day with morning Mass at St. Mary’s Church in Rockwood and a departing blessing from its pastor, Fr. Jim Rafferty. The first seven miles of Saturday’s route are considered “family-friendly” with mostly paved sidewalks and slower automobile traffic. Families of all ages and sizes are encouraged to join this portion of the pilgrimage. Those who join will be praying for and reading Scripture passages that reflect the need for families to raise up holy vocations. If they can not walk, families are still invited to a free lunch at Elizabeth Park in Trenton with the pilgrims.

Following this meal and a stop for frozen custard, the walkers will continue north on Jefferson Avenue through the communities of Trenton and Wyandotte. They will reach St. Andre Bessette Parish in Ecorse in the evening, eat dinner and play euchre before crashing for the night in the parish’s gym.

The final day of the journey starts at 8 a.m. as the pilgrims enter Detroit on Sunday morning. Participants praying for a renewal in all types of vocations for the local Church. Walking past Zug Island and Historic Fort Wayne, the pilgrimage ends at the Basilica of Ste. Anne, the second-oldest continuously running parish in the country. Participants will attend the noon Mass, which will be dedicated to the French and Native American people as part of the annual novena to St. Anne. Following Mass will be a brief tour of the basilica and the tomb of Fr. Richard.

"It is a time of prayer and reflection, a period of redemptive suffering as my feet and muscles tire, and an opportunity to share and receive faith from others,” Strimpel said. “Throughout previous pilgrimages, I have formed meaningful friendships, and I eagerly anticipate connecting with new participants this year.”

Pilgrimage participants, through the registration website, can sign up for a half-day, a full day, or the entire journey. On-site registration will be available for those who make a last-minute decision to partake in the pilgrimage.

Joe Boggs, the author of this article, is one of the organizers of the "Rise from the Ashes" Pilgrimage. Boggs also is president of the Father Gabriel Richard Guild, which promotes Fr. Richard's sainthood cause.

Fourth Annual 'Rise from the Ashes' Pilgrimage

To learn more about the fourth annual "Rise from the Ashes" Pilgrimage, check out the Facebook pages for the pilgrimage or the Fr. Gabriel Richard Guild.


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