CLU Pilgrimage to Our Lady of Champion

CL University students began the school year with a pilgrimage to Our Lady of Champion in Wisconsin and share with us what they discovered.

Noise filled my mind though we walked in silence. I couldn’t stay focused. The harder I tried, the more distracted I became. I carried with me a list of intentions a mile long but I couldn’t quiet my heart enough to even think of one. I couldn’t wait for a break, to talk to my friends. Yet, talking to my friends didn’t fill the void. It didn’t answer why I was on the pilgrimage in the first place. My prayer, instead of particular intentions, became a begging to accept my littleness, my dependence. Because only in accepting this, could I offer this pilgrimage for the intentions and prayers of others.

As the minutes rolled into hours, my ears became accustomed to the silence. My heart began to settle into the slowness that the pilgrimage brings. Little by little, with the help of my companions walking beside me, my heart began to crack open and I could begin to seek the words to pray.

Through these days, I began to see the projection of my life — a pilgrimage, a journey toward the Infinite. As the days wore on, I grew less discouraged by my distractions. Instead, I would turn my eyes to the cross leading us and remember why I was there: to offer these days as a prayer, to surrender to my own ideas, to see what our Lady had to give me.

From the silence, great companionship was born among us. The times we shared in dialogue and the songs we sang were much more beautiful because we had allowed the silence to penetrate our hearts.

On the last full day of waking before we reached the shrine, it rained nonstop the entire day. Decked out in rain ponchos, we walked the streets in silence. This day really forced me to accept my nothingness. There was nothing I could do but walk. By lunch, I was so tired — not so much physically, but my mind was exhausted. I couldn’t remember who or what I was praying for anymore. When we finally stopped for lunch, my friend Fran turned and reminded me what Lele said on our first night together. He had said something like, it doesn’t matter if you remember all the intentions you brought with you. Jesus already knows them. What matters is that you keep walking. This changed everything for me. All I had to do was simply show my face. Like in the song Romaria — “But they told me to come here, on this pilgrimage, in prayer, to ask for peace in my misadventures. But since I don’t know how to pray, I came simply to show my face.”

Leaving the pilgrimage, I am certain of my need to lean on Mary as my mother and walk this journey with my friends. I can’t do it alone. I have a deeper trust that she will take care of me and lead me to her Son. My life plans will always come up short. Only in surrendering myself and my ideas to Christ through Mary, can I be free.

Annie, St. Paul, MN


Walking the pilgrimage for me was the highlight of my summer and a great gift for my
life. In looking at my experience, I am faced with the question of why walking for four days rain
or shine, waking up at 5am, and sleeping on hard floors could fill me with so much life.

The pilgrimage was a concrete way to beg and entrust my life to Christ through the Blessed Mother. More and more, I begin to see that my life is not my own and I need Christ to show me the path for my life. I can’t carry the struggles and difficult circumstances in my life on my own. It’s only in giving everything to Christ that I can live in freedom and certainty that He is taking care of me.

The gift of friendship was particularly clear on the pilgrimage. I need my friends to walk with me on my journey towards Christ. It was beautiful to carry each other’s intentions and help each other grow closer to Christ. Perhaps the greatest gift of the pilgrimage for me was a deeper love in my heart for the Blessed Mother. I am growing in so much awareness of my need for her in my life. I need her help to say ‘yes’ to God’s will for my life. I want her fiat to resound in my heart more deeply every day.

Leaving the pilgrimage, I was full of the desire to discover what will happen to me as I begin to entrust my life more fully to Christ. I have a new hope to know and love Christ more deeply and understand who He is for my life. I am filled with gratitude to have walked those days with my friends.

Teresa, Benedictine College, Atchison, KS


I had the privilege of participating with CLU on their pilgrimage. It’s been about 40 years since I was in college and keeping up with people of college age was not easy. It was a beautiful experience as we helped with logistics and had opportunities to walk along with the pilgrims on their journey culminating in the visit to Our Lady of Champion the Assumption of Mary.

Throughout the pilgrimage we anticipated visiting the Shrine of Our Lady of Champion and the Crypt which is a special place for prayer and reflection on Our Lady. I have visited the Crypt on other occasions and as we approached the shrine on the day of the Assumption my idea was to focus more on
rest and visiting with friends than a visit to the Crypt. I had fallen into a mentality of having seen the
Crypt before and had little interest in going once again to a place I thought I knew well.

Once we got to the shrine I needed to perform a logistical task with another pilgrim and as we
approached the shrine once again he asked me to go see the Crypt with him. My knee jerk was to say
‘no’ and head towards a bench to sit down and rest. Fortunately, through grace I said ‘yes’ and went to visit the Shrine.

What I found in this shrine that I had seen before was many new things. I recalled Fr. Pietro’s invitation
to look for certain items he had found helpful in the past. I also ran into my wife and we had a few
moments of shared prayer together. I came to realize that I was treating the Crypt as a place instead of
treating it as the person of Mary. Understanding that I was visiting a presence and not just a place will
stay with me down the road, God willing. Afterwards I thanked that fellow pilgrim for inviting me to join him. This caused me to swallow a little pride and admit that my initial thinking was in need of correction. I am grateful that I said yes to the invitation.

Rick, Milwaukee, WI


Random thoughts of a Pilgrim

Step after step,
Silence after silence,
Song after song,
Prayer after prayer,
Pain after pain,
Something emerges…
I love this silence!
Sight gets a bit sharper
Hearing a bit clearer
Thoughts a bit deeper.
Step after step,
Silence after silence,
Song after song,
Prayer after prayer,
Pain after pain,
Something emerges…
God is all in all
This is all I want to see
This is all I want to hear
I am not yet there
A few more miles
Walking with these friends
With Mystery toward Mystery.
This is life.
Step after step,
Pain after pain,
Prayer after prayer,
Step after step.