Catholic Sentinel photos by Ed LangloisYouths from St. Joseph Church in Salem carry pilgrimage cross past Portland storefronts.
Catholic Sentinel photos by Ed Langlois
Youths from St. Joseph Church in Salem carry pilgrimage cross past Portland storefronts.
They were thrilled to let the world know they're Catholic disciples of Jesus.

About 600 teens from western Oregon trekked across Portland April 28, carrying an eight-foot-tall cross and praying as they passed storefronts and houses.

The energetic pilgrimage wound 6.2 miles from the Grotto to St. Mary’s Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception with stops for music, prayer, inspirational talks and good works. Theme of the second biennial Archdiocese of Portland Pilgrimage Walk was “Jesus, the Good Shepherd” based on the Gospel reading for April 29. Pilgrims received bright green t-shirts marked with a cartoon drawing of a sheep.

Mary Vasquez, a 15-year-old member of St. Anne Parish in Gresham, adjusted her headband inscribed in big red letters: "CATOLICO." Vasquez, who "just started getting closer to God," is excited to profess her faith publicly. She defends it often at her school, Centennial Learning Center, and she shared it during the pilgrimage.

"This day is going to change my life," she said. "We walked and saw so many people who need help and I'm just always going to remember that and keep helping."

Devon Peden of St. Edward Parish in Keizer helped carry the ross through Old Town during a day that stayed dry. All along the walk, he explained, Portlanders were mostly supportive, with friendly honks and waves and only a few jeers.

The first stop was Our Lady of Lavang Church, home to Portland's Vietnamese Catholics. In the home stretch, the teens stopped at St. André Bessette Church in Old Town, which serves many homeless, mentally ill and low income Portlanders.

The youths dropped off packages of new socks the parish will distribute to those on the streets.

When the young people arrived at St. Mary Cathedral, they let out tired but heartfelt cheers. They then attended Mass, celebrated by Bishop Kenneth Steiner, auxiliary bishop emeritus.  

Ally Olson, a senior at David Douglas High School, intends to continue publicly living her faith, including at Clackamas Community College next fall and the University of Portland after that. "A lot of people at my school have wrong ideas about Catholics," says Olson, a member of St. Joseph the Worker Parish in Portland who is happy to explain the truth of things.

One group of Catholic youths made a long road trip from the south coast and slept overnight at Holy Cross School in North Portland before the walk. The effort was worth it, they said.

"It's kind of nice seeing a big group of youths," said Bridget Chase, a member of Holy Redeemer Parish in North Bend. "You feel more a part of the Body of Christ."
Caroline Newman, of Holy Name Church in Coquille, said the walk was a good forum for learning about faith.

"Sharing with other youths is really fun," added Courtney Knight, of St. Monica Parish in Coos Bay.

Adults could appreciate the event, too, marveling at the youths.

"I think it's a great way for them to spend their energy," said Jack Platt, a volunteer who had come from St. Joseph Parish in Salem to lend support.  

This was the second pilgrimage walk. About 450 youths took part in 2010.