When Fr. Herb Bennerfield visited EWTN Studios and the Shrine of the Most Blessed Sacrament in Hanceville, Alabama, during a retreat in 2015, he knew he wanted to bring his parishioners there. In 2016, Magnificat Travel led a group from St. Joseph’s Church during Memorial Day weekend.
By Fr. Herb Bennerfield
Pastor, St. Joseph
As one of our Church’s famed “moveable feasts,” Corpus Christi rarely coincides with our three-day weekend honoring those who died in service to our country.
To say the weekend was a spiritual success is, at minimum, an understatement. From our spacious accommodations at the Benedictine Monastery in Cullman, we ventured forth to tour the Shrine of the Most Blessed Sacrament, including a prayer stop at the crypt of Mother Angelica, a highlight for all the pilgrims.
Magnificat arranged for us to attend spirituality talks by the Franciscan monks both in Hanceville and in Irondale that were inspiring and challenging.
We took a tour of the EWTN studios in Irondale, with everyone marveling at how a worldwide network could function in such a small space. The Holy Hour in which we were privileged to participate was an additional blessing and a foretaste of the “main event” of the next day.
The actual Solemnity of Corpus Christi proved to be a day of unforgettable memories: the Mass in the crypt church, praying the Rosary outdoors at the Our Lady of Lourdes Grotto, the excellent tour of the St. John Paul II Eucharistic Center (itself worthy of being a pilgrimage destination), and finally the Eucharistic procession.
The procession began in the upper church where Mother Angelica’s funeral had been celebrated only two months before. As a priest it was a special honor for me to participate in honoring Our Lord in such a beautiful and moving way. The memory of all the little girls dressed in their First Holy Communion finery as they tossed rose petals along the path of the procession, the Knight of Columbus in all of their regalia, the altar servers vested in their “Sunday best,” the throng of adorers following their Eucharistic Lord through the immense piazza, the outdoor altars where the procession paused for the faithful to be blessed with the Eucharist—all of it combined to make for an unforgettable and awe-inspiring day. The next day we toured Ave Maria Grotto with its beautiful miniatures of holy sites from around the world.
Yes, it was a wonderful weekend, rarer than a day in June, with treasured memories to last a lifetime.
Learn more about pilgrimages with Magnificat Travel.