Brian T. Olszewski, The Catholic Virginian
A Catholic practice dating to the 16th century was introduced to more than 50 people, most of them parishioners at St. Benedict, Richmond, as they visited churches in the city — one step at a time — Saturday, Oct. 21.
Father Tony Marques, pastor of St. Benedict, developed the idea and walked with participants, starting at St. Benedict and ending at St. Patrick in Church Hill, with stops at the Cathedral of the Sacred Heart and St. Peter Parish.
The tour was based upon those on which St. Philip Neri and members of his religious community toured seven churches in Rome. Their pilgrimages included singing, prayer and a brief reflection by the saint. The Richmond version, sans singing, included an explanation of each church’s history.
Father Marques conceived the idea as he reflected on the beauty of the parishes — a beauty that he feels people might not be seeing.
“I wanted to make an event of it, make a pilgrimage of it,” he said. “With a pilgrimage, you have a deep spiritual component as we’re journeying to heaven together. And the Church is there to support us.”
As he looked at the architecture of the cathedral, Jay Utz, a self-described “burgeoning history buff,” said he was intrigued by the idea of the walk.
“I have never toured the cathedral,” he said.
At the cathedral, Edie Jeter, archivist for the Diocese of Richmond, spoke about the building and invited participants to the museum and crypt in the lower level.
As she sat in the diocese’s first cathedral, St. Peter’s, Ashley Easterling explained why she participated in the tour.
“I’m interested in learning about the churches; I run in this area,” she said, noting she is training for the Richmond Marathon.
Easterling had never been in St. Patrick’s, and was interested in getting a “more historical perspective” about the churches.
Noting the similarity of the structures, she said, “I like the traditional design.”
Father Marques said it would be a “great idea” if other parishes wanted to conduct similar tours for their members, and offered to share with them how he planned the tour and the logistics involved.
“This is a relaxed way for fellowship, but it is balanced,” he said of the pilgrimage. “It included prayer, the social and the historical.”