Our Living in the Light teens are privileged to be able to make four Southern Catholic Heritage Pilgrimages over the course of their four summers of high school here at Lady of the Mountains Catholic Church. These four pilgrimages are consecutive and fall in order, and we repeat them again at the end of the four-year cycle. They are specifically designed to help our Georgia teens understand the rich heritage they enjoy as Southern Catholics, and to give them opportunities to see the various colonial cultures that create our unique part of the world. These four Southern Catholic Heritage Pilgrimages are as follows.
St. Augustine, Florida
The first Southern Catholic Heritage Pilgrimage is to St. Augustine, Florida. There we explore our 16th century Spanish roots, see where the first Mass was offered, and visit the oldest town in our nation’s history. We visit the oldest shrine to Our Lady in the U.S. and learn about the Spanish missions to Florida (and Georgia). We visit the old fort, have fun on the beach, and just drink in the atmosphere of old St. Augustine. We were there in 2011 and are returning this summer (2015).
Chesapeake Bay Area
The second Southern Catholic Heritage Pilgrimage is to the Chesapeake Bay area, where we explore our 17th century English roots, see where the Ark and the Dove landed, where the colonists of Maryland offered the first Mass, and visit old St. Mary’s City and see the first church built there. We also visit Baltimore and see where Mother Seton lived, and pray in our nation’s first cathedral. We visit D.C., the basilica Shrine of the Immaculate Conception, and see the sites of our nation’s capital. We were in D.C. in 2012, and we’ll be headed back in the summer of 2016.
The third Southern Catholic Heritage Pilgrimage is to New Orleans, where we explore our 18th century French roots. The oldest convent in our nation is in New Orleans, and one of the oldest cathedrals in our country. We visit some of the beautiful churches of the city, and drink in the culturally rich atmosphere of French Catholicism here in the American south. We walk through the French Quarter and take a river cruise down the mighty Mississippi. Our teens last visited New Orleans in the 2013, but they’ll be returning in the summer of 2017.
The fourth Southern Catholic Heritage Pilgrimage is to Savannah, where we explore our 19th century Irish roots. Our trip usually includes a stop at St. Joseph’s church in Macon, which is an architectural gem. The trip includes beach time on Georgia’s beautiful coast, but we also enjoy touring and praying in one of the most beautiful cathedrals on the east coast. We may take a guided tour to drink in the ambiance and history of Savannah, with its colonial and Revolutionary War past. We can take a stroll through the shops on River Street and enjoy a picnic in Madison Square Park to say hello to William Jasper, too. This trip focuses upon the rich Irish heritage that also flavors our Southern Catholic experience. The last time our Living in the Light teens made this pilgrimage was the summer of 2014, but we hope to be heading back in 2018.
Taken together, these four trips help us to understand our Catholic Church here in the American South, where Catholicism has enjoyed nearly five centuries of history. Catholicism first made its entry into the American experience here in the South, and many different immigrant groups brought with them their own traditions that would go on to become our traditions. On these Southern Catholic Heritage Pilgrimages, these diverse cultures unfold for us as we learn about our history. That helps our youth to know who they are, and it helps them to be even stronger Catholics as they lead us into our future.