In the heart of Minneapolis, the Basilica of Saint Mary works hard to provide rich opportunities for prayer to equal its utter splendor as the co-cathedral of the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis.

It also works to create an inclusive parish community that doesn’t shy away from tough conversations or from taking up the challenge Pope John Paul II gave in a homily in St. Louis in 1999, “to put an end to every form of racism, a plague which your bishops have called one of the most persistent and destructive evils of the nation.”

This Sunday, February 28th, the basilica will unite all three goals in its Basilica Neighborhood Racial Justice Pilgrimage. (If weather does not permit walking this day, the fall back date for the pilgrimage is Sunday, March 21st.)

In the heyday of urban renewal, the Black neighborhood of Near North Minneapolis was gravely affected by the routing of a new interstate directly through the community. St. Martin de Porres Church, one of only two Black Catholic parishes in the city at the time, had to close after its parishioners were scattered. Those parishioners were invited to join the basilica, and their parish’s stained glass windows were moved to a room in the lower level of the building.

On Sunday, pilgrims will retrace their steps, meeting at the basilica to learn about Catholic pilgrimage and how it can fuel racial reconciliation. In addition, according to the basilica website:

Dr. Reba Luiken, a local historian and columnist for The Catholic Spirit, will then provide a short history of the former St. Martin de Porres parish and changes to our neighborhood in the 75 years since it was built.

There will also be time for individual prayer (Visio Divina) with the original stained glass windows from the St. Martin de Porres parish.

The group will then depart together and return to the basilica to celebrate the 4:30pm Sunday Mass.

Huston Smith, a leading religious studies scholar, once wrote that “to set out on pilgrimage is to throw down a challenge to everyday life.”

In a time when everyday life requires a direct confrontation with racism, one Catholic community is seeking out the challenge.


Will F. Peterson is the founder of Modern Catholic Pilgrim, a non-profit organization that aims to deepen faith and build community across the United States through walked pilgrimage in the Catholic tradition.