Region 5: 

Alabama, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Tennessee

This list of Pilgrimage Site are the Verso Ministries Top Pilgrimage Sites in Region 5. 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.

 
 
Main Chapel at The National Shrine of The Divine Mercy

Main Chapel at The National Shrine of The Divine Mercy

1) Shrine of the Most Blessed Sacrament

(Hanceville, AL)

The Shrine of the Most Blessed Sacrament is a Shrine utterly devoted to Christ in the Eucharist. It was founded and run by, the Poor Clares of Perpetual Adoration from Our Lady of the Angels Monastery, the site that hosts the Shrine. These sisters are famous because of the recently deceased Mother Angelica who led their charge in helping to run the popular Catholic tv channel, EWTN which is only a few miles south of the Shrine in Birmingham. The Shrine itself is designed to strike you with a sense of wonder and awe at the majesty of Jesus Christ as well as to draw you closer to Him. Being with the Sisters throughout your time at the Shrine will fill you with an unexplainable peace as their way of life will break down any walls you might have put up. Their constant prayer and love will always open any visitor up more fully to the Lord and it edifies all who visit. If you are looking to turn this into a group pilgrimage, you can find more information on a few of the options that they have to offer on their website. And when you go, expect the unexpected as your experience will be unique to yourself in ways unimaginable!

 

Address: 3222 Co Rd 548, Hanceville, AL 35077

 
Picture of Blessed France Xavier Seelos

Picture of Blessed France Xavier Seelos

2) National Shrine of Blessed Francis Xavier Seelos

(New Orleans, LA)

The Shrine was built in honor of Blessed Francis Xavier Seelos, a strongly influential Redemptorist Priest that lived during the 1800’s. Being born and growing up in Germany, Seelos joined the Redemptorists who brought him to the United States in order to help with ministry in the fledgling country first as the associate pastor to St John Neumann before traveling along the east coast until he was finally moved to New Orleans where he worked with the sick and poor before contracting yellow fever in his first year, eventually succumbing to the illness. The museum and Shrine honor Blessed Francis at the site of his final home where relics, statues, and other pieces of art are on constant display. Being a part of communities all across the United States, this Shrine is fitting for pilgrims from all over to come honor a man who helped lead the Redemptorist missionary efforts for twenty years. If you look back into Catholic history in your own diocese, you are likely to find a Redemptorist trained or sent by Blessed Francis (or quite possibly Blessed Francis himself) who had some sort of effect on the building up of Catholicism there. Being in the heart of New Orleans, any pilgrimage here will also give you the opportunity to experience one of the most unique cultures in the United States. So go and visit a future Saint and the city which he lovingly gave his life for! 

 

Address: 919 Josephine St, New Orleans, LA 70130

 
Bell Tower and Abbey Church of Gethsemani Photo by Erik Eckel/CCA-SA 2.0

Bell Tower and Abbey Church of Gethsemani

Photo by Erik Eckel/CCA-SA 2.0

3) Abbey of Gethsemani

(Trappist, KY)

The Abbey of Gethsemani is a Trappist monastery found among the knobs of rural Kentucky, in the heart of bourbon country. The Trappist monks living there lead contemplative lives of prayer, work, and sacred reading. They follow the Rule of St. Benedict and support themselves through the goods they produce - fudge, fruitcake, and jellies - all while remaining true to their routine of prayer: seven times a day, starting at 3:15 a.m., plus Mass. The Abbey was founded in 1848 and is the oldest monastery in the United States that is still operating. It's most famous resident, Thomas Merton, was a New York Times bestselling author and one of the greatest spiritual writers of the 20th Century. Merton is buried on the grounds of the Abbey. Overall, the Abbey is one of most contemplative places on our list. It's a great place to simply slow down and be still.  And if you'd rather get up and move around during your prayer, there are miles of trails to explore. Finally, we would be remiss to not mention that if you're over 21, you can combine a pilgrimage to the Abbey with a few stops along the Bourbon Trail! Seriously, Maker's Mark is only fifteen minutes away.  Don't mind if I do.

 

Address: 3642 Monks Rd, Trappist, KY 40051

 
Old Ursuline Convent Photo by Infrogmation/CCA-SA 3.0

Old Ursuline Convent

Photo by Infrogmation/CCA-SA 3.0

4) Museum at the Old Ursuline Convent and St Louis Cathedral

(New Orleans, LA)

As one of the oldest strongholds of Catholicism in America, the Old Ursuline Convent dates all the way back to 1745. Although it has been almost 200 years since any Ursuline sisters have actually lived in this building, it has remained a central piece to American Catholicism as it holds the history of the growth of Catholicism in New Orleans. It has been the residence for Bishops, the Diocesan Offices, and many other groups, but throughout this entire time, it has remained in the hands of the Catholic Church which is why it was turned into a museum of the history of Catholicism in the city. Saint Louis Cathedral, while 100 years younger than the Convent itself, is home to one of the longest lineages of Bishops in the United States. You will get lost in the history of this place, the true beauty of all the holy men and women who have walked on the soil of these two locations will inspire you in your own faith life. Both the museum and the Church will be more than enough to keep you going for an entire day of activities and they both will call you back for visit after visit as they build up the desire to encounter our past more and more. By the end of your visit, you will feel as if you have experienced a sort of homecoming to one of the first hearts of Catholicism in America! 

 

Address: 1100 Chartres St, New Orleans, LA 70116

 
Interior of the Proto-Cathedral Photo by Nheyob/CCA-SA 3.0

Interior of the Proto-Cathedral

Photo by Nheyob/CCA-SA 3.0

5) Basilica of St. Joseph Proto-Cathedral

(Bardstown, KY)

In 1808, the Diocese of Baltimore was the one and only diocese in the entire United States. As America expanded and its population grew, the Church decided to expand to four more dioceses in New York, Boston, Philadelphia, and you guessed it – Bardstown, Kentucky! About an hour’s drive south of Louisville, you can still visit Bardstown and the first Cathedral west of the Allegheny Mountains – the St. Joseph Proto-Cathedral. Proto meaning “first”. Because this particular church represented the Church’s expansion west, it was widely acclaimed and supported by Catholics around the world. Even today, you can still see beautiful artwork which was donated by Pope Leo XII, King Louis Philippe of France, and more! At one time, the Diocese of Bardstown served the equivalent of 10 states, and it was originally built to welcome pioneers and their families who were moving west. In 1841, after an economic boom in Louisville, the bishop’s seat and cathedral, the Basilica of the Assumption, were officially moved to Louisville.

 

Address: 410 NH-4A, Enfield, NH 03748

 
Distillery on the Bourbon Trail Photo by Ken Thomas

Distillery on the Bourbon Trail

Photo by Ken Thomas

6) Bonus Site! Bourbon Trail

(Kentucky)

For those over 21 years old, we’d also like to take a moment and indulge in one of America’s finest (and most popular) “pilgrimage” routes today. Whether you can channel your inner-hipster or not, the Bourbon Trail is a fun and relaxing way to spend a day or two (or more!) and appreciate the fine craftsmanship of the world’s best bourbons. All throughout northern and central Kentucky, you can travel along the Bourbon Trail making stops at some of the most well-known distilleries like Maker’s Mark, Jim Beam, or Woodford Reserve. Or you can discover smaller operations like Angel’s Envy in downtown Lousville. Whatever your pick, you can take some time to “refresh your spirit”. Summer weekends are obviously the most popular times to visit, but the distilleries are open year round for tours. A personal favorite is the weekend-evening Ghost Tour at Buffalo Trace Distillery. You can chase the ghostly spirits with a bourbon tasting to follow!