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Seven Churches pilgrimage marks key stops in Christ’s path to crucifixion


Holy Thursday is commemorated in the Roman Catholic Church by the Evening Mass of the Lord’s Supper, remembering the Last Supper eaten by Jesus Christ before His betrayal, arrest and ultimately the Crucifixion.

St. Luke’s Mission of Mercy, one of seven sites visited on the Holy Roll. (Photo courtesy of SS. Columba-Brigid Parish)

While many worshipers go home following the Mass and adoration of the Blessed Sacrament, some do not consider the night complete until they embark on their annual visit to seven churches following Mass.

Andrew, a 25-year-old from St. Gregory the Great Parish in Williamsville, was among those who were out and about late Holy Thursday night.

“The traditions of our faith and that pilgrimage, and just trying to be as Jesus was on that night, and kind of trying to put myself in that mindset, getting ready for Good Friday and keeping that pilgrimage after Holy Thursday Mass,” he said, when asked about what motivates him to renew the pilgrimage each year.

The visit to seven churches represents seven stops, or stations, made by Jesus along His way to the Cross. Those stations are His night of prayer in the Garden of Gethsemane, His arrest and being brought before Annas, being brought before the High Priest Caiaphas, being taken to Pontius Pilate, being sent before Herod, then being returned to Pilate, and finally being crowned with thorns and sent on His way to the Crucifixion.

Numerous churches were open into the late evening on Holy Thursday. Some groups of worshipers rented school buses or vans to go from place to place. One group, meanwhile, traveled by bicycle. The Holy Roll, as it’s called, involved 33 riders this year, beginning at SS. Columba-Brigid in Buffalo, and endured chilly, windy weather while commemorating the steps of Jesus on Holy Thursday.

Among the churches frequented by pilgrims this year was Our Lady of Perpetual Help on O’Connell Street in Buffalo’s Old First Ward. This church was the last stop of the night for Deborah Kissel. She and her family have taken part in the visits for many years. Kissel couldn’t recall how far back it started, but noted that she involved her children when they were young, and they continue to uphold the tradition in their 30s.

“The beauty of the church, you know, to come and pray and to be still and just reflect. It’s just quiet time,” Kissel said. “But the beauty of the churches around in this area are just … there’s no comparison. I lived down south for a while and you just don’t find the churches like you do here. We’re very fortunate. We’re very lucky in that aspect.”

Also visiting Our Lady of Perpetual Help Church was a young woman who identified herself as Justine. This was her first visit to seven churches. She’s a student at D’Youville University and explained that she had been interested in doing this for the past couple years, but finally got the opportunity to go out this year.    

The Holy Roll, led by Father Jud Weiksnar, sets out to visit seven churches on Holy Thursday. (Photo courtesy of SS. Columba-Brigid Parish)

“I’ve had to study pretty hard the past two years. And tonight, I’m able to do it,” she said.

Justine told Western New York Catholic it felt “beautiful” to complete the visit. Especially because, as she continues her studies, she realizes her opportunities to do this locally are limited.

“I just thought it was a really unique and beautiful opportunity to do this here in Buffalo. And I’m not going to be here, you know, for much longer, I thought why not now?”

Here Michael Mroziak’s report.


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