From the Arlington Catholic Herald: 

The sun came out Memorial Day weekend for the fourth Annual Arlington Camino, an event for teens who walk 33.7 miles while praying for vocations, seminarians and those preparing for the diaconate.

The two-day affair began at St. John Church in Leesburg the morning of May 28 and concluded with Sunday Mass at the Cathedral of St. Thomas More in Arlington the evening of May 29.

“It’s pretty hard and I’m really tired. But I did it last year and enjoyed being with my CYO friends, so (I) wanted to do both days this year,” said John Duthie, 15, during a lunch break in Vienna on day two.

Wearing their new bright blue shirts, with a few red ones from the 2021 walk sprinkled in, more than 20 teens and a handful of adults walked along the Washington and Old Dominion Trail, each assigned a specific seminarian or prospective deacon to pray for at the mile markers.

“I like the community it builds and I want to pray for the seminarians,” said Alison Tett, an adult volunteer who walked on Saturday but took over advance work for the stops on Sunday because of blisters.

The pilgrims had multiple stops along the way for water breaks and food, where volunteers met them with snacks, chairs and band-aids. Adults also carried first aid supplies along the walk. The group took an unscheduled break when they encountered an older couple injured in a bike accident. Some of the adults tended to them with their supplies, while Peyton Voorheis, 18, led everyone else in a rosary.

Collectively, they walked more than 1.2 million steps during the two-day adventure. And while the teens prayed along the way, that was not all they were doing. Conversations varied from restarting a summer book club and a debate over what sports are the best to play.

The pilgrimage is the brainchild of Sarah Ginther, director of youth ministry at St. John’s. Ginther was a high school student in Alabama when the Boston clerical sex abuse scandal broke. She recalled being taunted by some of the non-Catholics in her school at the time.

Ginther has been at St. John’s for 11 years, during which time she gained a greater appreciation for the demands of clergy life and came up with the idea for a walk. “Priests need our prayers, too,” she said. The walk itself took several years of planning to make it a reality. Now it is a well-oiled machine.

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Photo: Arlington Catholic Herald / Mary M. Shaffrey