One Jesuit’s Pilgrimage Experiment

In 1969, Fr. Dick Perl, SJ, “pioneered the revival of Jesuit pilgrimage” when he took a 10-week journey from St. Louis to the Shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe in Mexico City and back again. His novice director sent him on his way with $150 and a small pack. Fr. Perl shares the story of his pilgrimage and concludes:

One of the basic thrusts that Ignatius had for his novices when he sent them out with no money was: “God will provide.” And how God did provide for me. Whether it was a ride when I was hitchhiking, food when I was hungry or a place to lay my head at night, the Lord always delivered.

Perl’s trip included a night on the porch of a hardware store in Kentucky, threats of jail in Mississippi, a shrimping job in the bayous of Louisiana, hopping trucks and freight trains, and experiencing the generosity of strangers. Read his story here.

The pilgrimage experiment, where novices are sent to different destinations with $5 and a bus ticket, is now a regular part of Jesuit formation. The goal is practicing trust in God.

Image of Sanctuary of Our Lady of Guadalupe (Old Basilica), Mexico City by Jan Zatko under Creative Commons license.

2 Comments on One Jesuit’s Pilgrimage Experiment

  1. What an amazing story. I love to hear how God and Mary guided him through his pilgrimage. He certainly learned to trust in God and is now living the life as a missionary as God planned for him. God bless you Fr Pearl.

  2. I am definitely curious about how this works- mostly legal/ethical aspects. It’s my understanding that the men are not supposed to reveal they are Jesuits during this process. If the men become sick or injured, what happens? Do they have insurance? Does the Society foot the bill? Or, (and please- I’m not trying to be harsh. I’m genuinely trying to understand this process) should they end up in an ER, are they left to experience indigent care and… Dare I say, leave the bill to the tax payers and the generosity of the hospital? Train hopping is illegal and extremely dangerous. People lose life and limb doing this. Is this an encouraged part of the process? (I’m not opposed to taking risks in the line of ministry- Greater Love and whatnot. But, I’m also trying to reconcile this with rendering unto Caesar.) What if a man returns from this experiment maimed? Does the society still accept him and does the society provide for his medical needs? And if the destination is in another country, are these men traveling with passports and do they have the requisite Visas/documents? I think the purpose of this experiment is great. I have no doubt how powerful this experience must be and to trust in God’s Providence.

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