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Origin Story

Stormy Countryside
St Michael Fairfield Parish in Network
Protocathedral Bardstown
Sign of Parish in Hospitality Network
Mile 0
A Pilgrim on the Way against the Grey
Pilgrim in the Grass
Pilgrim on the Straight and Narrow
Paul with the Pilgrims
God Alone
Backpack in Church
The Road Ahead
Train tracks against stormy skhy
Merton's Grave
Rear View of Gethsemani
Entrance to Gethsemani

In March 2017, two friends set out to walk the 75 miles from Lexington, KY to the Abbey of Gethsemani, the Trappist monastery famous as Thomas Merton's residence. Along the way, Will Peterson and David Cable spent two nights with hosts coordinated by Catholic parishes and one night at an interfaith homeless shelter. This pilgrimage, supported by Religion News Service and culminating with an interview with a monk who had Merton as his novice master and spiritual director, sparked a realization and a call for Will and David. There was enormous fruit in the walk, the community, the prayer, the destination, and the hospitality of the hosts along the way. And so, the project that would become Modern Catholic Pilgrim was born. 

Press Release on the Gethsemani pilgrimage, then under the title Modern Millennial Pilgrimage Project 

Key Excerpts:

  • “In this age of inhospitality, Will Peterson and David Cable and their host families are modeling important values of kindness, welcome and hospitality,” said Thomas Gallagher, RNF’s CEO.  “Who better than Thomas Merton to model life-giving dialogue with those of one’s own faith tradition, and importantly, with those of other faith traditions and none at all,” said Gallagher.

  • “Combining attention to the ancient practices of pilgrimage and hospitality, this is a wonderful and timely project,” said Christine Pohl, associate provost for faculty development and a professor of church in society at Wilmore, Kentucky-based Asbury Theological Seminary, and a leading expert on Christian hospitality.

  • Pohl’s colleague at Asbury, James R. Thobaben, dean of the school of theology and formation and a professor of bioethics and social ethics, agrees. “I am convinced that bodily engagement in spiritual disciplines (pilgrimage, fasting, kneeling in prayer, and so on) is — or, at least, can be — a facilitator of our receptivity to grace,” said Thobaben.

The First Pilgrimage's Blog - Read about the pilgrimage in the "Holy Land of Kentucky" in Will and David's own voices, on the blog hosted by RNS

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