PORTLAND — Three seminarians are participating in a walking pilgrimage that will cover more than 140 miles in an effort promote vocations to the priesthood and other forms of religious life.

“We wanted to do something to help promote vocations in our diocese, so we thought this would be one of the best ways to do it in this Year of Mercy,” said Liam Gallagher, a seminarian at Our Lady of Providence Seminary in Rhode Island.

The first part of the pilgrimage completed earlier this summer took Gallagher and Dennis Fitts, who will enter Our Lady of Providence Seminary in August, from the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception in Portland to the Basilica of Saints Peter and Paul in Lewiston.

On July 30 the pair started off again from the basilica bound for St. John Church in Bangor, and for this part of the journey, they were joined by Joe Moreshead, who will enter Theological College, the national seminary of The Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C.

“It’s been a lot of work definitely, but I’m very excited to continue on and, God willing, to reach the end,” said Fitts.

The current stretch includes more than 100 miles of walking, an arduous task by itself but one made more difficult with backpacks stuffed with items like tents, sleeping bags and water.

The pilgrimage includes three of the four holy doors that were opened in the Diocese of Portland for the Holy Year of Mercy: the doors at the cathedral, the basilica, and St. John. The seminarians said if they had more time, they would walk to the door at St. Luce Church in Frenchville.

On July 31 the three made it as far as Augusta after camping out overnight in Litchfield and arriving in time to join in the celebration of Sunday Mass at Sacred Heart Church in Hallowell, where they presented the gifts during the offertory. They then set off down the Kennebec River Trail to Augusta where they spent the night.

The three say the pilgrimage, although not without challenges, has been filled with graces.

“It’s been a rich experience. We camped out in Litchfield (Saturday) night, outside, and it was a graced day because we had several people, complete strangers, stop to help,” said Moreshead. “We had one lady … we bought vegetables from her at a farm stand; she actually drove back home, got cookies and Mountain Dew and water and granola bars, and then drove back, found us on the side of the road, pulled over, gave us food, then left.”

Later, they ended up spending time with another family who greeted them as they walked by.

“They waved, said hello. The next thing you know, we were sitting on their porch for three or four hours, chatting. They were feeding us,” said Moreshead. “So, it’s been good.”

“The trip so far has been wonderful,” agreed Gallagher. “The weather has been absolutely perfect. We’ve been so blessed and are so thankful for it.”

The trio stayed at the Transfiguration Hermitage in Windsor on Aug. 1. The journey concluded at 3:30 p.m. Friday, Aug. 5, at St. John Church in Bangor.

“It sounded like a good way to pray and promote vocations, and I have the summer off from teaching, so I was free to do it,” said Moreshead.

“It’s quite a feat to walk from Portland to Lewiston, and now from Lewiston to Bangor, so we’re hoping just the sheer number of miles might inspire some people,” said Gallagher.

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