CatholicPhilly recently spoke with Sarah Cahill, 26, who is serving as an archdiocesan perpetual pilgrim this summer and will walk thousands of miles across the United States ahead of the National Eucharistic Congress in Indianapolis in July. 


Sarah Cahill

Sarah Cahill is getting ready to hit the road this summer, but it’s no vacation. She is one of 24 young adults on a pilgrimage of faith beginning this month, walking from points across the United States to Indianapolis

The 10th National Eucharistic Congress is being held there as the culmination of the two-year long National Eucharistic Revival called for by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops. The effort has sought to renew understanding about Christ’s real presence in the Eucharist.

When it comes to this central tenet of the Catholic faith, Cahill’s own life journey has in a sense mirrored that of many Catholics.

The faithful practice of her youth became one activity among many in a busy life, until an encounter of prayer and service changed the course of her life.

A member of St. Agatha-St. James Parish in Philadelphia, Cahill grew up in Alexandria, VA then attended Drexel University to study engineering while also competing on the Dragons’ swim team.

While she had little time outside those demands, during her sophomore year in 2020 she heard about a way to serve  those experiencing homelessness

She joined a mission trip to Denver where she worked with Christ in the City, an organization of Catholic young adults who commit to living and praying together for a period of a few years while working with the homeless and evangelizing in the community.

Prayer was an integral part of the group’s activity, including frequent eucharistic adoration.

“Adoration was the key,” Cahill said. “I knew Jesus was present – I had the grace of that knowledge. But I knew something had to change in my life. I needed space for prayer, for small group faith sharing, for retreats, for things that could fill me out.

“I always knew the Catholic faith and tradition, but I didn’t know how to share that. I needed to grow in my faith and have a heart for service and seek further formation.”

When she returned to Drexel her life indeed began to change. She became involved with the Catholic Newman Center on campus and attended Mass there along with regular retreats and small groups.

She shifted her major from engineering to social work largely because of her experience serving the homeless and her growing depth of faith.

Cahill was convinced she needed to work with “people rejected and ignored, not seen as a neighbor,” she said.

She also believes “there’s a lack of faith in the Eucharist in the Church. People go to Mass but don’t have belief in the true presence [of Christ].”

Her conviction is born out by polling that suggests perhaps only half of Catholics believe that the Eucharist is not a symbol of Christ’s presence in the sacrament, but he is truly present in it after the consecration at Mass.

This startling evidence of a disconnect in the foundational belief among Catholics led the U.S. Catholic bishops to devise the national revival that launched in 2022.

Cahill’s own experience as a now 26-year-old professional shows her “how [eucharistic processions] deeply impact people. If you bring Jesus, people change. We need his presence, and Jesus will do the rest,” Cahill said.

The two-month pilgrimage she’s about to begin will feature public processions of the Blessed Sacrament on a route through towns in the U.S. Midwest, from Minnesota south through Wisconsin, Illinois and Indiana, ending with the five-day congress.

Three other routes will cross the country toward Indianapolis, including through the Philadelphia area May 30  – June 3.

She and her team of six pilgrims, along with seminarians, a consecrated religious, and a priest will lead the eucharistic processions on foot most days.

When not pounding the pavements, the Blessed Sacrament will be exposed in their travel van so they can adore the Lord as it covers the miles between towns and cities.

That prospect of continuous adoration, daily Mass, and street processions with the Eucharist among the diverse people along the pilgrimage route fills Cahill with anticipation and excitement.

“I’m thrilled to see different people and cultures through the lens of the Eucharist and the Church,” she said.

Cahill realized she’d need to quit her job from the start of the pilgrimage May 17 until the conclusion of the congress July 21.

So, she took the matter to prayer and discerned that “the Lord’s got me. He’s given me the gift of this pilgrimage, and I entrusted it to him,” said Cahill, who hopes to find a new job in social work and housing support later in the summer.

In her prayers as she prepares for the pilgrimage, Cahill said she asks God “to prepare the people we’re meeting, that we’re going to be changed” by the eucharistic encounter.

Along the way Cahill hopes to experience “a lot of surrender, praying for healing of everyone we encounter, and for American culture.”

One goal of the eucharistic revival is its aftermath: that people made newly on fire for the Lord through the encounter will go out on a mission of evangelization.

Cahill describes her mission along the pilgrimage as “becoming more of a witness. I don’t know what [people’s] belief is going to look like, but mission is always about witnessing to faith, telling stories of what we’ve seen.”


For the full schedule of opportunities for prayer, processions, and other Eucharistic events in the Archdiocese of Philadelphia, visit here.