California, Hawaii, Nevada
This list of Pilgrimage Site are the Verso Ministries Top Pilgrimage Sites in Region 11. The Regions that will be used for all of our lists are based off of the Regions used by the National Federation for Catholic Youth Ministry (NFCYM) and used for the Bishop Conferences. These resources are here for Youth Groups, Young Adults, and Individuals to be able to find local sites to go on Pilgrimage to.
1) The Franciscan Missions
One of the hallmarks of Catholicism in the western United States is the use of the Franciscan Missions in California for the evangelization of the people. Built from 1769 to 1823 these twenty one Mission Churches were the earliest homes of Catholicism and became the anchors through which the lands were brought to know Christ. Although they carry with themselves both positive and negative opinions upon their historical uses, the California Missions are truly a home for Catholicism in the western United States and therefore great sites to visit. Depending on which pilgrimage you visit, you will be left with a number of possible activities to do on the grounds. If the Mission is still built up, I would strongly encourage that you attend Mass at the Church there as well as walk around the grounds in prayer, reflecting upon the missionaries who lived there. If possible, I would strongly encourage making your pilgrimage to Mission Carmel where you can visit the tomb of San Junipero Serra, one of the most recently canonized American Saints. Although a controversial man in some eyes, he is the source of intercession for multiple miracles and because of this believed to be in Heaven and therefore someone that we should feel able to call upon to pray for us to the Lord our God. So go and visit the Missions, these first homes of Catholicism in California, and find yourself connected to the earliest days of our faith in this country!
2) Shrine of the Most Holy Redeemer
(Las Vegas, NV)
The Shrine of the Most Holy Redeemer is a Shrine Church that was built in 1993 in order to fulfill the growing Sacramental needs of Catholics that would visit Las Vegas. Built near the airport for ease for travelers, this seems as though it would be an unlikely pilgrimage site. And yet it is a Shrine dedicated to Christ as our Redeemer. There is no title more merciful to us than this one and so here, in the heart of “Sin City” is a place bearing the name of mercy and forgiveness for all who ask it. At first, it seems like you are entering just another Church. But then you enter into the Chapel of Our Lady of Guadalupe and it changes everything. An image of Our Lady of Guadalupe, painted in Mexico in 1680, and a statue of Saint Joseph sit on either side of the Chapel. In the center is a simple Altar with a beautifully ornate Tabernacle. And then finally, there are two murals with the main evangelizers of North and South America that flank the Tabernacle. In this room with Christ and the Saints, any pilgrim would easily find themselves lost within the beauty of all that surrounds them. It is truly a site for a pilgrimage as the outside world filled with the allures of vice collides with the sanctity of those that helped to make this world we live in possible. And so, I encourage anyone who finds themselves in Las Vegas to make a short pilgrimage to this Chapel to allow yourself to be reminded of all of the dedicated work that went into the forming of Catholicism in this hemisphere and to unite yourself in the evangelical spirit of the predecessors that you see painted upon those walls.
Address: 55 E Reno Ave, Las Vegas, NV 89119
3) Kalaupapa National Historic Park on the Island of Molokai
One of the most inspiring saintly stories must be that of St. Damien of Molokai. A Belgian missionary, Fr. Damien arrived in Hawaii as a young seminarian (the Bishop ordained him literally the day after he arrived because he basically thought, “What can I do with a seminarian? He needs to be a priest!”) and after 10 years on the Big Island, volunteered to serve the lepers on the island of Molokai as their priest. Fr. Damien served there for 16 years before succumbing to the disease himself, and he was instrumental with building infrastructure and order within the community. Today, you can still visit the area which was officially shut down (aka, they stopped forcefully sending patients here) in 1969. You can visit several churches he built, as well as walk the grounds where there were homes for orphans – one for boys and one for girls. Fr. Damien’s community – the Sacred Heart fathers – are still present on the islands today! Kalaupapa is also home to Saint Marianne Cope, a Franciscan sister who arrived only months before St. Damien’s death and who carried on his ministry to the sick.
Address: Kalaupapa , HI 96742
4) Redwood National Park
Who would have thought that trees could grow so big that you could hollow out a tunnel in one of them for cars to drive through, and it would still remain standing. The Redwoods are truly a natural wonder in both their immense size and vivacious colors. The Redwood National Park spans 40 miles of coastland filled with hiking trails and four campsites. Underneath the canopy, it is easy to lose the sun as the Redwoods seems to take on its own weather system compared to the rest of the world around it. The temperature is completely different, the amount of sunlight varies from one spot to the next, and yet the beauty is overwhelming as you come into contact with these special trees. So bring your breviary, bring your rosary, bring a tent and a backpack, and bring a Priest, and set out on a week long pilgrimage within the forest in a search for God’s presence within the natural world!
5) Christ Cathedral
(Garden Grove, CA)
Originally known as the Crystal Cathedral of the Evangelical preacher Robert Schuller, the Diocese of Orange bought the Church and began to turn it into a Catholic Cathedral in 2012. This work of architecture, with walls made completely of glass, has a lot to see across the 34-acres of grounds. Perhaps the most impressive feature is the massive organ which is the fifth largest organ in the world! The Arboretum and the Galleries are also well worth a visit for any visitors. I strongly encourage anybody in the area to experience this unique Cathedral. There is no other Catholic Cathedral made of pure glass and the grounds have so much to offer! So go enjoy the beauty of this place, enter into prayer within the Church itself, and come closer to Christ in the glory and majesty of this Cathedral in His honor.
Address: 13280 Chapman Ave, Garden Grove, CA 92840