Starting at the 12:45 mark, Will explains in an interview on the Mike Allen Radio Show what led him to found the project and what the plans were for the first pilgrimage.
Will F. Peterson, Founder and President – Will experienced firsthand radical Catholic hospitality on trips to Iowa and North Dakota during college during which he recognized that American Catholicism contains a multitude of people willing to open their doors to travelers. A pilgrimage to Rome for Pope Francis’s first Easter while an undergraduate stirred the first thoughts of a pilgrimage ministry as he felt the immense power of a physical journey of faith shared with others. After years as a Catholic school teacher in TN, KY, and CA, he now works full time with MCP. He has been a speaker at Catholic and pilgrimage-related conferences; a writer for academic, diocesan, and lay publications; and a guest of various Catholic media outlets.
Maria Benes, National Eucharistic Pilgrimage Project Lead - Maria is honored to join the MCP team as a Project Lead for the National Eucharistic Pilgrimage and excited to help bring Jesus both physically and spiritually to people around the country. Maria also serves as the co-director of the Before Gethsemane Initiative, a Catholic nonprofit for racial reconciliation.
She holds a Ph.D. in political science with a specialization in human rights from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln (UNL) and a M.A. in international affairs with a concentration in conflict resolution from The George Washington University. Maria has taught college classes in human rights, international relations, and public policy. She has a heart for advocating for the inherent dignity of every human person from conception to natural death and bridging the political divide with Our Lord at the center. Maria previously served as a missionary for the Fellowship of Catholic University Students (FOCUS), followed by a couple years as a high school youth minister. She and her husband, Mitch, have two children on earth and one in Heaven. She loves the Eucharist, spending time with her family, coffee with friends and traveling to new places.
Chenele Shaw, National Eucharistic Pilgrimage Project Lead - Chenele holds a B.A. in theology from Ave Maria University and is Co-Director of the Before Gethsemane Initiative. She is the host of podcast Ave Spotlight with Ave Maria Press, secretary for The Human Condition Community, and a contributing writer to various Catholic publications, including Grotto Network, The Catholic Woman, and Our Sunday Visitor. Prior to her current work, Chenele taught Theology and Catholic Social Teaching in New Orleans and spent a couple years as a Director of Youth Ministry in Denver, CO. She currently resides in Florida and can usually be found searching for the best local ice cream, hosting friends at her home, and planning her next national parks trip.
Alexandra Brutus, Walking Together Fellow - A native New Yorker, Alexandra lived in Long Island and attended school there as well. Alexandra graduated with her B.A. in Business Management with a focus in marketing in 2020. Immediately following, she served as a Focus missionary at the University of Rhode Island for 2 years. While there, she was able to lead a Focus mission trip to El Salvador and direct another mission trip to Baltimore. One desire that she has is to go on a pilgrimage to the Holy Land with her siblings one day. Currently, she's attending the University of St. Thomas and getting her Master's in Catholic Studies, graduating in May 2024.
Ali has a passion for mission and desires to see the conversion of the world! She believes that it is possible through Love and with Love. Ali is one of six and her siblings witness Christ love to her at home. Her best friends are her siblings, and they all share their common love for dance, music, silly jokes, and Jesus in the Most Blessed Sacrament.
Father Christopher Iwancio, OFM Cap, Chaplain - He is a member of the Western American Province of the Capuchin Franciscans who was ordained in 2015 and is currently assigned as Chaplain at St. Francis High School in La Canada, CA, which is just outside of Pasadena.
For a number of years, he has been interested in pilgrimages, having chaperoned a number of them with young people as well as eventually walking the Camino in Spain. As part of his doctoral dissertation, he studied the influence of pilgrimage on young people.
David Cable, Co-Founder and Board Chair – Eagle Scout with experience backpacking throughout North and South America. Realized powerful lessons in humility and hospitality through traveling with others in unfamiliar territory. Encountered God’s glory within the wilderness of His creation. Taught social studies and religion for two years at a high-poverty parochial school in the Boyle Heights neighborhood of Los Angeles. Witnessed the strength and generosity of a tight-knit and generous community within a poverty-stricken area. Currently, working from Minneapolis, MN in research and sales for a prominent software company.
Cort Peters, Vice Chair - An alumnus of the University of Notre Dame, he completed the university's ACE teaching program before spending three years in the Congregation of Holy Cross's seminary. From there, Cort has spent time as a principal of multiple Catholic schools and, having received his Master's in Sport Performance and Psychology, now counsels athletes at all levels on how to sustain growth in their respective sports. His counsel extends to pilgrims as well. He is a retreat leader and spiritual director as well as the co-founder of Abba Father Institute and Play Like A Champion Today San Diego.
Anthony J. Petz, Secretary/Treasurer - A native of Detroit, Anthony moved to San Diego in 2014. His first pilgrimage experience was a 32-day/500-mile trek along the historic El Camino Real, visiting eleven of the twenty-one California missions (starting at Mission San Diego de Alcalá, in San Diego and ending at Mission San Antonio de Padua, northwest of Jolon). Anthony currently works as a CPA in San Diego. His spiritual heroes include San Junipero Serra, Blessed Pier Giorgio Frassati, and Blessed Solanus Casey. Siempre adelante! Verso l'alto! Blessed be God in all His Designs!
Anthony at far right