Young Adults Open Their Hearts to God’s Love on Mexico Pilgrimage


On the flight back to New York from Mexico, Fatima Arcadio, 27, felt very grateful for the spiritual uplift she and others experienced during prayer and reflection at the Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe in Mexico City.

Ms. Arcadio was one of 16 young adults who took part in a nine-day pilgrimage/vacation in Mexico that ended July 21. She is a parishioner of St. Mary’s Church in Yonkers. The trip was organized by the archdiocesan Office of Young Adult Outreach, the third annual summer pilgrimage sponsored by the office.

“During the homily on the first day, Father Fredy (Patiño Montoya) encouraged us to be vulnerable and open our hearts to God’s love and blessings through the intercession of the (Blessed Mother),” Ms. Arcadio told CNY shortly after the group returned to New York.

“When Juan Diego encountered our Mother for the second time, he was ashamed because he did not do what he was asked. She did not scold him, but only said, ‘Am I not here who am your Mother?’ While we are on a constant mission to serve others, we need to be reminded that our Mother will always be there to take care of worries, anxieties, doubts and stress in our lives…When we first saw St. Juan Diego’s tilma inside the basilica, that was a special moment that stood out for me.”

Father Patiño Montoya served as the pilgrimage group chaplain, celebrating daily Mass for the group. He is pastor of St. Joseph and St. Mary Immaculate parish on Staten Island. The Office of Young Adult Outreach sponsored its first summer pilgrimage to Portugal in 2017 and the second to France last year, each highlighted by visits to Catholic holy sites. Its programs and activities are designed for adults 18 to 39.

“The pilgrimage was such a special experience – the young adults who went were really special people, and very open to whatever God had in store for them,” said Mary Elise Zellmer, assistant director of Young Adult Outreach. “Their openness was a real testimony to me as the group coordinator, and I was very touched to see the ways that God worked in their lives.”

“Our farewell dinner was one of my favorite moments of the trip. Each person got the opportunity to speak about what led them on the trip and what they had experienced,” said Ms. Zellmer, “and I was very moved to hear what some of them had been going through, and how much Our Lord and Our Lady were present to them during their time on this pilgrimage.”

Brandon Archer, 31, in an email message during the pilgrimage, told CNY, “Last year, sadly my mother Gloria and my Aunt Jemma passed away within two months of each other…This pilgrimage is very important to my spiritual growth.” Archer is a parishioner of St. Joseph’s Co-Cathedral in the Diocese of Brooklyn.

Pilgrim Lisa Del Tejo, 34, a parishioner of Our Lady of Perpetual Help in Lindenhurst, said she was very grateful for the times Ms. Zellmer, as lead group coordinator, listened to her personal challenges and reaffirmed the spiritual guidance the pilgrimage offered.

The trip itinerary, mostly in central Mexico, included visits to Tepeyac Hill, site of Mary’s apparitions to St. Juan Diego in 1531; the Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe; and several ancient locations. The group attended Mass every day except for the return- flight day from Puerto Vallarta; the Mass sites included a basilica chapel.

The 16 young adults were with two coordinators including Ms. Zellmer, Father Patiño Montoya, and a tour manager from Peter’s Way Tours, which specializes in tours to Catholic holy sites. The other trip coordinator was Kaitlyn Colgan, office administrator at Young Adult Outreach. “It was wonderful. Everyone went there and got a chance for prayer time; it was great,” Ms. Colgan said of the spiritual blessing of being present at the Tepeyac Hill site, located in the same complex as the old and new basilicas of Our Lady of Guadalupe.

The pilgrimage group also enjoyed the Ballet Folklórico de México in the Palacios de Bellas Artes. They later took a flight to the Pacific coast and relaxed the last few days at a beach resort in Puerto Vallarta, where the farewell dinner took place.


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