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To end the school year with a pilgrimage at the Shrine of Our Lady of Sorrows has been an annual event for more than 15 years for homeschooled children, their teachers and parents from the Diocese of Jefferson City.
They came to the historical shrine in Starkenburg again on May 20 to pray and celebrate at a place of devotion that has been home for May and September pilgrimages since 1852.
Kimberly Henze, a member of Our Lady of Lourdes Parish in Columbia, has helped organize this event for many years.
She said no one seems to remember when the pilgrimages started for homeschooled students and their families, but all were quite sure it has been more than 15 years.
Families with children from all over Mid-Missouri have been attending.
“When we started doing this many years ago, we’d pray the Rosary and would just walk around these beautiful grounds,” said Mrs. Henze. “Then somebody said, ‘Why don’t we ask a priest from a parish in our diocese to come join us?’ — and that’s when we added a Mass and Stations of the Cross. That happened about 10 years ago.”
This year’s pilgrimage started with the Sacrament of Reconciliation and Rosary at 10 a.m., followed by a Mass at 11 in the Shrine Chapel, and Stations of the Cross that ended before noon.
Then Mrs. Henze opened the doors to the small old log chapel, and all eyes focused on a statue of the Blessed Mother. Students took their turns walking up the three steps and ceremonially placing fresh-cut flowers at her feet.
As in years past, the pilgrimage of this Mid-Missouri Catholic Homeschool group ended with a picnic lunch that was enjoyed while sitting on the wood benches outside the Shrine Chapel, where hostas and other spring flowers looked healthy, nourished by recent spring rains.
Father Anthony Viviano, pastor at St. Joseph Parish in Westphalia and St. Anthony of Padua Parish in Folk, was the spiritual leader this year. He shared a story during his homily of attending the pilgrimages in Starkenburg with his parents as a young boy growing up in North St. Louis County.
“I had not been back here until a few years ago after I was ordained a priest in 2012,” he said. “I wanted to visit the shrine again. It’s a place you don’t forget. I remember the old cafeteria building where they served the dinners, and has been replaced with the impressive Valentine Hall.”
Mrs. Henze said 50 people attended this year’s pilgrimage, but as many as 100 have come in the past.
“It’s that time of year when people have busy schedules, with graduations and other things going on,” she said. “We have everyone in a homeschool email group, and that’s how we get the word out.”
Those who came this year enjoyed perfect spring weather as they drove up to the shrine at Starkenburg.
It wasn’t hot, it wasn’t cold and it wasn’t raining.
“It was perfect weather; an awesome day,” said Mrs. Henze.