Sharing my visit to EWTN was a crowd of cheerful and friendly Chaldeans from the Eastern Catholic Re-Evangelization Center. Originally from northern Iraq, the Chaldean pilgrims now live near Bloomfield, Michigan. Approximately 16 Chaldean Catholic churches are in that area, and many of the pilgrims attended daily Mass together regularly. I was lucky to meet this organized group of pilgrims. Tagging along with the Chaldeans gave me the opportunity to join in activities not available for solo pilgrims, only groups.
I met them at Mass at the start of the day at Our Lady of the Angels Chapel (click here for my post about visiting EWTN and the Chapel). After Mass, like the crowds pressing close to Jesus, they all joyously posed for pictures in front of the altar. Some kissed and touched their fingers to Jesus’ feet on the crucifix; one lady rested an arm around the marble altar as if around the waist of a dear friend.
We then went to a talk at Guadalupe Hall by Father Paschal Mary, a Franciscan Missionary of the Eternal Word. Because the Diocese of Birmingham was celebrating a special Year of St. Joseph, Fr. Paschal’s talk focused on St. Joseph, specifically the Seven Sorrows and Joys of St. Joseph, a Franciscan tradition. It originated when two Franciscan priests were shipwrecked, St. Joseph appeared to them, they were saved and meditated in gratitude on the mysteries of his life.
The Franciscan Missionaries of the Eternal Word were founded in 1987 by Mother Angelica with a specific charism of enhancing spread of the Gospel through electronic media. Many are familiar to EWTN viewers through programs such as Church Universal and daily televised Mass and devotions. They also work in production, filming, editing, and directing shows and provide talks and spiritual direction to pilgrims. Follow this link to plan your pilgrimage on their helpful website.
After the talk, I met the Chaldeans again as part of the live studio audience for the filming of the April 2, 2019 Scripture and Tradition. The Chaldeans were an enthusiastic audience for Father Mitch Pacwa. Father bounded onto the studio stage in his characteristic cowboy hat and they greeted him effusively. To their delight, Father Pacwa speaks Aramaic and Arabic, among many other languages. As you can see (video of Chaldean Pilgrims with Fr. Pacwa), animated conversation and joke telling (judging by the laughter!) punctuated the bookends and breaks of the live show. To reserve tickets to this or other EWTN shows as a single pilgrim or part of a group, go to the website. It definitely adds to the pilgrimage experience to see the dedication and professionalism of the production staff operating the equipment, plus it’s fun to see if friends at home can spot you in the audience.
After the show, Fr. Pacwa generously posed with any pilgrim who wanted a photo on the set. One of the Chaldeans kindly took this photo for me. The set itself contained many interesting icons gathered by Fr. Pacwa in his travels, but the highlight for me was the infectious joy of the Chaldean pilgrims in having the opportunity to visit EWTN.