By Lou Baldwin
Special to The CS&T

PHILADELPHIA – There is physical exercise and there is spiritual exercise. The St. Charles Borromeo Seminary community hoped for both during a March 14 Lenten walking pilgrimage from Wynnewood to Philadelphia’s other Catholic Cathedral, the Byzantine Ukrainian Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception in the Northern Liberties section of the city.

Mother Nature had other ideas. Because of stormy weather, the Philadelphia Police advised against the walk – East River Drive might be flooded and other routes also obstructed. Instead, after Morning Prayer at the seminary, they boarded buses to the Cathedral.

spanine Liturgy was celebrated by Ukranian Archbishop Stefan Soroka, with both Ukrainian Rite and Latin Rite priests concelebrating. “It was a beautiful liturgy with beautiful prayers and the Ukrainian Rite priests helped the Latin Rite priests with the liturgy because it is quite different,” said Msgr. Joseph G. Prior, rector of St. Charles.

The Ukrainian Cathedral is an architectural gem, and in addition to the beautiful mosaics and icons one special image stood out.

Displayed on the steps of the sanctuary is an accurate replica of the Shroud of Turin, believed by many to be the burial cloth of Christ.

“The Archbishop told us they could have hung it in their museum, but because it is an encounter with something sacred and a source of meditation and reflection, the proper location is within a church,” Msgr. Prior said. “It is well worth seeing.”

The pilgrimage itself “was a great experience for the men. Many of them had never been to an Eastern Rite liturgy before, and they really got to see some of the richness of that tradition,” Msgr. Prior said.

Following the liturgy the pilgrims were the guests of the Archbishop at a luncheon of traditional Ukrainian foods and then toured the Cathedral museum, which through artifacts explains the history of the Byzantine Ukrainian Rite in Europe and America.

For Orlando Eso, in second year theology from the Allentown Diocese, the things that struck him most were the beauty of the Cathedral and the many icons and the liturgy itself.

“You then appreciate the other side of the Catholic Church and you see how spanerse we are and yet united under the Pope,” he said.

David Waters of St. Peter Parish in West Brandywine, in fourth year college, was already familiar with the cathedral’s beauty. What impressed him was the wonderful reception they received.

“The liturgy was very beautiful and everyone was welcoming on a dreary day,” he said.

“The visit by the seminarians to the Ukrainian Catholic Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception in Philadelphia was great,” said Archbishop Soroka. “Their interest reflects the genuine fraternity and respect continuously shown by the Philadelphia Archdiocese and Cardinal Rigali for the Eastern Churches. It was a pleasure to become acquainted with Msgr. Prior and … it was an honor for us that they concelebrated the spanine Liturgy with us.”

Under the leadership of Msgr. Prior, who has made pilgrimages to many of the great shrines of the world, including Lourdes, Compostela, Ars and the Holy Land, a pilgrimage within the Archdiocese has become a tradition exercised every other academic year.

The purpose of the pilgrimage, Msgr. Prior said, is to remind us in this season of Lent of “our journey of faith. The movement from one place to another reflects that we are here in this world but moving towards the Kingdom of God; that is what our goal in life is. We are also following the Crucified One, the Lord, as we follow the processional cross and we walk together in communion,” he said. “We end up celebrating the spanine Liturgy, the Eucharist, which binds us as a community and unites us with our Heavenly Father.”

Lou Baldwin is a member of St. Leo Parish and a freelance writer.