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Many Steps of Faith: The Good Friday Walk to Chimayo

“Take up your cross and follow me,” Jesus tells us. And every Lent, tens of thousands of faithful do just that: They pick up their crosses and make the Good Friday pilgrimage on foot to El Santuario de Chimayo, a centuries-old adobe church in Chimayo, New Mexico. Some pilgrims walk from nearby villages. Pilgrims in Albuquerque begin their 100-mile journey on Palm Sunday in order to arrive on Good Friday. Wherever there’s a road — north, south, east, west — people start walking.

Like a giant Communion host, the paschal moon lights up the sky on Holy Thursday night, a lamp unto pilgrims’ feet beginning the thirty-mile journey from Santa Fe. Bundled up in coats and hats, the walkers are a microcosm of the Church in the American Southwest: Indians, Hispanics, and Anglos, all walking together on the road to Calvary. A few pilgrims carry life-sized wooden crosses, a heavy penance as the miles go by — miles filled with heartwarming stories of sacrifice and faith.

“Why are you making this pilgrimage?” a reporter asks an elderly woman, her walking stick covered with photos of family. “I’m praying with my feet, begging God to bring my kids and grandkids back to church,” she replies. “It’s in the journey — not the destination — that God hears us.”

Pilgrims getting a head start on the Good Friday walk. (Photo by author)

Walk. Walk. Walk. A steady stream of Rosaries are prayed in English and Spanish: “Our Father, Who art in heaven … Padre nuestro, que estás en el cielo.” From a distance, the procession of flashlights looks like fireflies. Walk. Walk. Walk. As the hours pass, more Rosaries saturate the crisp air.

Featured

A Gift of Peace

(Photo by Marion Amberg)

It’s a traditional Nativity scene. Christ Child. Angels. Wise men. Shepherds and sheep. What isn’t so traditional is who made it: German POWs incarcerated at Algona, Iowa.

The story begins in 1944 when Sergeant Eduard Kaib was captured in France and shipped to Camp Algona, a base camp in north-central Iowa that housed 3,200 German POWs and oversaw 34 branch camps in Minnesota, Iowa, and the Dakotas.

Suffering from war injuries, Kaib was also mired in depression. He missed deeply his homeland, family, and German Catholic religious traditions. One day, the radio operator had a divine idea.

“Sir, I’d like to build a Nativity,” Kaib petitioned Camp Commander Arthur T. Lobdell.