The idea of pilgrimage began to take shape from a very young age when my family made informal pilgrimages to Holy Hill. My family would frequently take trips there in the fall to enjoy the colors of God’s creation. I would enjoy climbing the observation tower and picking up a pumpkin for carving at one of the local farms on the way home.

The spiritual experience was only scratching the surface of my soul. I did not know it at the time, but through these pilgrimages, the seeds for a walking pilgrimage from the Shrine of Our Lady of Champion to the Shrine of Our Lady Help of Christians (Holy Hill) were planted.

The call to make this deeper pilgrimage began when I was amazingly brought to the Diocese of Green Bay, home of the Shrine of Our Lady of Champion. I began to feel an inspiration to connect my childhood experiences with Holy Hill to my mission here in Green Bay. I attribute my relocation to the Green Bay Diocese to the care of Our Lady, and when I came here, I saw fit to thank Our Lady at her shrine just outside of Green Bay.

The message from the apparitions resonated in my soul and strengthened my faith in her intercession for the protection of my vocation. The idea of a walking pilgrimage from the shrine to Holy Hill seemed like an unattainable dream. It seemed too daunting of a task for a 41-year-old priest who didn’t seem to have the time or energy to do such a thing. I was thinking this might be an idea that I could encourage a youth group to undertake.

But when I presented the idea to some young men, they said that I had to personally do it if it was going to work.  I put the idea to the side for a time, and then I was appointed to the closest neighboring parishes to the Shrine.  I felt Mary was calling me to a greater pursuit of the idea by this appointment. I began to make more frequent visits to the shrine, the place where she was able to affirm the call to make the pilgrimage.

The pilgrimage no longer remained just an idea in my mind, and it began to take the shape of a mission in my life.  One day an aspect of Our Lady of Good Help’s message struck me.  It was the most unique part of the message to Sister Adel: “Go out into this wild country and teach the children what they need to know for salvation.”  I came to realize this message was also meant for me and everyone who visits the shrine with devotion.

It also affirmed the idea of leaving from the Shrine to begin the pilgrimage. With all this, I found a new and special kinship with Sister Adele, one of a shared mission, and I began asking for her intercession to help me take on this mission…this dream.

I began to look more deeply into possible routes from the Shrine to Holy Hill. I also made a couple of 7.5-mile walking pilgrimages to the Shrine of Our Lady of Good Help from my rectory at St. Thomas the Apostle Parish. These activities began to inspire dreams in my sleep, which had me walking the Pilgrim’s Way to Holy Hill.

I began to investigate and inquire about possible stopping points for my longer pilgrimage.  In my investigations, I have only been met with the support of others.  One day in particular was most affirming.  Driving on my way to meet my mom and dad for dinner on Mother’s Day, I came across some providential support.

I was headed down to the Holy Hill area in order to meet my parents and was running a bit early.  I remembered my investigation of possible stopping points on Google Maps and knew there were three possible parishes in West Bend, WI but I could only remember the name of one of them, St. Francis Cabrini.  I thought to myself that if I could stop in the Church and say a prayer for the pilgrimage, it would be an affirmation of my mission and dream.

As I drove up to the church, I saw a man and a woman standing beside the church, speaking to each other, so I went to introduce myself.  Before I could say my name, the man said, you’re Fr. Andrew Kurz.

Little did I know that he was a brother priest whom I had met several times before when he was an assistant at my parent’s parishes in the Milwaukee area. He had just been assigned to the West Bend parish within the last year.  After letting him know what I was up to he assured me that he would be able to work out some accommodations for my pilgrimage.  When I went into the church I was able to make a prayer of thanksgiving for all that God was providing.

I continue to see blessings in others who have been sent for encouragement and those who want to make this mission even more fruitful through technical tools that will help bring the message of salvation that Our Lady of Good Help has spoken of through modern-day modes of communication.

Pray with Mary. Walk with Jesus.

Fr. Andrew Kurz