Ann Becker has been wearing a pedometer since mid-February and keeping track of how many steps she takes each week. With each step she takes, she thinks, “Oh, I’m getting closer and closer to Jerusalem.”
Becker is not actually walking from New York to Jerusalem. Instead, she’s participating in a Lenten program at St. Patrick Parish in Victor, where she lives. Through this program, parishioners are taking part in a virtual pilgrimage to Jerusalem as they attempt to boost their physical and spiritual health.
Members of the 106 households participating in the Our Walk to Jerusalem program record the number of steps they take or miles they walk and submit those numbers to the parish each weekend, said Ruth Anne Dupre-Trippe, St. Patrick’s pastoral minister. Dupre-Trippe converts the steps into miles and totals them. The next week, she puts an insert in the bulletin telling parishioners how many total miles the group has traveled, and how close this brings the group to Jerusalem.
“We kind of approximated the mileage from Victor to Jerusalem,” said Dupre-Trippe, noting that the trip is estimated to be 5,751 miles. “The whole idea was to take a spiritual journey of prayer together. The program is about praying in our community and also raising awareness of our health and wellness.”
Dupre-Trippe said she and others on St. Patrick’s Health and Wellness Ministry team developed the Lenten program after talking with Patricia Klees, health-care minister at Brighton’s St. Thomas More Parish, which Dupre-Trippe said has a similar program. After the Victor team developed and began to implement its Our Walk to Jerusalem program, team members learned that a company called St. John Health actually offers a similar program, which the parish might look into purchasing next year, Dupre-Trippe said.
For now, though, Dupre-Trippe is pleased with the way parishioners have enthusiastically embraced the homegrown program.
“It seems like people are excited about it,” she said.
Each week during Lent the St. Patrick bulletin has included an insert devoted to the program. This insert not only lists how far parishioners have walked collectively, but it also includes a space for them to write in their own prayer intentions for the week.
By mid-March, St. Patrick parishioners had walked a combined total of 4,672 miles, and with three weeks of Lent remaining they only had 1,079 miles left on their pilgrimage, according to the March 18 bulletin insert.
At this rate, there’s a good chance the pilgrims will make it to Jerusalem before Lent ends, Dupre-Trippe said.
“We are so close to arriving in Jerusalem. If we arrive before Palm Sunday … we can tour the Holy City and pray as we continue our journey through Lent,” she said.
“We’re going to make our goal easy. We might get to Jerusalem and visit for a while,” added Lucy Santoro, who is participating in the program with her husband, Pat.
While parishioners are racking up the steps and miles faster than she’d anticipated, Dupre-Trippe said they’re not neglecting the spiritual aspect of Our Walk to Jerusalem. When they write their weekly totals on the bulletin insert each week, they also write down special intentions they’d like participants to pray for, and those intentions are posted on a parish bulletin board devoted to the Lenten program, she said.
Each bulletin insert also includes a Scripture selection for participants to read and think about, as well as a question to reflect on during the week. The question for the week of March 11-17 asked parishioners to consider “What can you do this week to really spend time alone with God, listening with your heart?”
Each week participants also are asked to pray for a specific intention related to Operation Rice Bowl, a Catholic Relief Services Lenten program the parish is participating in. The bulletin inserts also provide participants with weekly health and wellness tips, as well as facts about Jerusalem.
Becker enjoys reading the Jerusalem facts because she’s never been there and the tidbits help her envision the city as she virtually travels to it. Becker decided to participate in the program with her husband, John, and her son, Marty, because the family wanted to establish some healthier habits.
“We needed to get ourselves physically fit and feeling good. We just like knowing that we’re incorporating something that’s good for our health,” she said.
When she started wearing a pedometer, Becker was surprised how many steps she took each day. That motivated her to become even more active, she said.
“It just makes you aware. It gives you a bit of a challenge. I’m walking a little more and using the exercise equipment,” she said.
Becker and her husband also keep the program interesting by challenging each other to see who can take the most steps in a week, she added.
Santoro, who usually walked at least two miles most days even before she began the program, says she and her husband also keep each other motivated.
“My husband is a great walker too, so if one sort of slacks off, the other will push,” she said.
Santoro said Our Walk to Jerusalem seemed like a perfect fit for her because both walking and prayer are already big parts of her life. Quiet time for prayer is as much a part of her daily schedule as her walking, she said.
“I’ve been doing a lot of reflection at my quiet time. I just envision the suffering Jesus did for us, and many thoughts come to mind,” she said. “Reflection is a very important part of (the program). It’s good for Lent.”