May 1, 2024 | Local News
Fr. Stephen Van Lal Than

With Bishop Andrew H. Cozzens, chair of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Committee on Evangelization and Catechesis, with the Perpetual Pilgrims who will walk the St. Juan Diego Route of the National Eucharistic Pilgrimage. COURTESY OF NATIONAL EUCHARISTIC REVIVAL

Eucharistic Pilgrims coming soon

Nationwide pilgrimage set to visit Diocese of Owensboro this summer


Charlie McCollough laughs when he thinks about how his freshman self would have responded if he was told he would graduate from college and embark on a months-long walking pilgrimage across the southern United States.

“I would never have believed you if you told me that’s what I was going to do,” he said in a phone interview with The Western Kentucky Catholic.

McCollough is one of the Perpetual Pilgrims tasked with walking the National Eucharistic Pilgrimage this summer, along with other Catholic young adults and some Franciscan Friars of the Renewal. They will accompany Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament from city to city, encountering all they meet with the love of Christ.

The pilgrimage will consist in four routes: Marian Route (northern region), St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Route (eastern region), St. Juan Diego Route (southern region) and St. Junipero Serra Route (western region). All routes will converge at the July 17-21, 2024 National Eucharistic Congress in Indianapolis.

The St. Juan Diego Route will pass through the Diocese of Owensboro on June 30-July 3, and will visit St. Mary Parish in Franklin, Sacred Heart Parish in Russellville, and several parishes in the Bowling Green Deanery, as well as the Fathers of Mercy. The faithful are invited to participate in the many opportunities for Adoration, prayer, Mass, confession, processions, and food and fellowship.

Charlie McCollough is one of the Perpetual Pilgrims going on the St. Juan Diego Route of the National Eucharistic Pilgrimage, which passes through the Diocese of Owensboro from June 30-July 3, 2024. COURTESY OF NATIONAL EUCHARISTIC REVIVAL

McCollough, one of the pilgrims on the St. Juan Diego Route, looks forward to visiting western Kentucky and helping others foster a relationship with Christ.

“I was raised Catholic and received all my sacraments,” but he didn’t have that personal relationship with Jesus, said the Texas A&M senior.

“There was a moment my freshman year at Mass,” said McCollough. A friend who lived down the hall in his dorm had consistently been encouraging McCollough to go with him to Mass. He eventually agreed to do so.

At that Mass, McCollough recalls, “when I received the Eucharist, there was this moment that I came to understand that Jesus Christ was pursing me, and loving me, and caring for me, and I was unaware of it until now.”

“It was my moment to realize that every moment leading to this one was a small step” to this encounter with Christ, he said. After that, he began “learning what life with Christ looks like.”

He believes this is what led to him “saying yes to a once-in-a-lifetime experience” of walking the National Eucharistic Pilgrimage.

Shayla Elm, another Perpetual Pilgrim who will pass through the Diocese of Owensboro via the St. Juan Diego Route, shared similar sentiments.

“I’m very excited to see the ways the Lord will transform the hearts of the people we encounter,” she said.

Elm serves as the community engagement manager for the Catholic non-profit Christ in the City in Denver, Colorado, in which she connects with volunteers and families to serve the homeless in Denver’s community.

She was raised Catholic, and it was during her junior year at her Catholic high school that she took a class on morality – and came to understand the “why,” not just the “how,” of the Church’s teachings.

Elm recalls thinking “Oh, there are reasons why we do what we do!”

“That started my deeper devotion to Christ and our faith,” she added. Then, one Lent, she and her basketball team decided to attend daily Mass together.

“Attending Mass on the feast of St. Thomas Aquinas, I remember realizing for the first time at that Mass, thinking ‘This is the Lord I just received!’ It launched me into a life of faith,” she said.

In college at University of Mary in North Dakota, Elm started making time to spend with Jesus in Eucharistic Adoration and to attend Mass as often as she could.

Shayla Elm is one of the Perpetual Pilgrims going on the St. Juan Diego Route of the National Eucharistic Pilgrimage, which passes through the Diocese of Owensboro from June 30-July 3, 2024. COURTESY OF NATIONAL EUCHARISTIC REVIVAL

Today, Elm said her devotion has continued to grow as she serves the homeless population in Denver, especially as her team focuses their lives around Jesus in the Eucharist.

As she prepares to go on the pilgrimage this summer – which includes a personal initiative of visiting Denver’s many Adoration chapels – Elm said her prayer is to view everyone they encounter as God views them.

“My hope and prayer is that we will meet everyone as the Lord would,” she said.

She and McCollough said that they are eager to journey through the South, which is home to the Bible Belt; that is, many non-Catholic Christians.

McCollough said that being born and raised in Texas, he regularly encounters fellow Christians who are not Catholic, and said it is normal to talk about the faith with them.

“We can agree that the love of Christ changes everything,” he said.

Elm said the National Eucharistic Pilgrimage team is preparing informational and catechetical materials to hand out to bystanders who are curious about the pilgrimage.

She and McCollough encouraged the faithful of the Diocese of Owensboro to attend some or all of pilgrimage’s journey through western Kentucky.

“We read in the scriptures of Jesus Christ passing through towns,” said McCollough, likening the pilgrimage to this experience. “We invite the faithful to pray for us, to pray for the pilgrimage, and if they’re able to, to join us and be with us” while passing through the area.

Elm said they are “really excited” to come through the Diocese of Owensboro.

But at the end of the day, “it’s not about what the pilgrims are doing – it’s about the Lord, that anyone who comes has an encounter with the Lord,” she said.

To learn more about the Diocese of Owensboro’s celebration of the National Eucharistic Revival, visit

Originally printed in the May 2024 issue of The Western Kentucky Catholic.

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