Over the last week I have enjoyed the many hours I have spent with my fellow pilgrims. Many of us have taken pictures at each location we have traveled. At times we looked more like tourists than pilgrims.

Within our parishes, we hear about sharing our “talents and treasure.” This pilgrimage provided a real-life reminder of how we are all provided a gift from God — talent.

Coming on this pilgrimage, I thought I had a pretty decent talent related to photography. Over the last few days I have learned that Rebecca, Mark, and Nhat have much more talent than me when it comes to photography.  I found myself asking advice from these three pilgrims about angles, lighting, and camera settings so I could refine my talents and take better pictures.  In just a few short days, I have learned a few new skills that I look forward to expanding in the future. The fruits of our labor will be shared on our photo gallery once we return to campus and have a faster WIFI connection to upload the hundreds of pictures we have taken.

More importantly, as I return to campus, I will commit to find specific ways to better share my talents with others to help them grow and serve others.

Written by Ryan Willerton


I am not an adventurous type of person when it comes to food.  While many of my fellow pilgrims were excited at the opportunity to enjoy French cuisine, I was not.  Fortunately, I have found solace in my daily baguette (or two). For less than a Euro, I had peace of mind that I would be physically nourished. 

Comfort helps us get through difficult times. In the crypt at the Shrine in Le Mans, we learned of a story of Father Moreau requesting a candle be lit for him in Le Mans during his journey across the Atlantic for his visit to the missions in America. During my pilgrimage to France, my baguette was my candle — it got me through a few challenging food experiences (as a few of my new friends have realized!).

As Holy Cross priests hold the motto AVE CRUX SPES UNICA (Hail the Cross, our only hope) as sacred and a guiding influence, I have found myself praying at dinner how the baguette was my only hope.

When I return to Notre Dame du Lac in less than 24 hours, I will be faced with a number of challenging situations. While I will no longer need a baguette, I have a deeper appreciation for the Holy Cross pillar of “hope” and how important prayer can be… even for something as simple as bread.

Written by Ryan Willerton


These last 4 days have offered me something I have not experienced for quite a while — uninterrupted time to reflect.  No email. No phone. No text messages.  

My day-to-day work is very rewarding, but some days are quite challenging. Seemingly never-ending thoughts of administrative tasks and the These last 4 days have found me packing up my phone in the morning and putting it in my backpack, not to be touched until the day has come to a close.  

Getting “unplugged” has provided me a chance to continually reflect on how thankful I am — my journey to how I have gotten to where I am today; where I am today; and where I hope to be in the future.  As an undergraduate student at Bradley University, I would never have imagined working at the University of Notre Dame. I would not be where I am today if it were not for the support of others. Most of my time has been giving thanks for those who have sacrificed on my behalf, primarily: my parents, my wife, my kids, and the my mentors at Notre Dame who have provided me countless opportunities to serve our students in different ways.

During this pilgrimage, I have learned about how “opportunity” can be so powerful. Fr. Moreau was provided an opportunity by his local priest to enter the seminary; Fr. Sorin was provided an opportunity by Fr. Moreau to start a mission in America; and I too,  have been provided many opportunities by Holy Cross Priests. A few days ago at the Shrine of Blessed Basil Moreau in Le Mans, my fellow pilgrims were asked to pray for Holy Cross priests who have made an impact on us.  A number of “C.S.C.’s” have made my last 19 years memorable and fulfilling, and hearing the names of the 30+ priests and brothers brought back many memories over the last 19 years. I will be eternally grateful for the opportunities that two Holy Cross priests, in particular, provided me in their respective roles as Vice President for Student Affairs: Fr. Mark Poorman and Fr. Tom Doyle.

As I return to Notre Dame du Lac, I ask myself this question: “What opportunities can I provide others to continue the legacy of Holy Cross?”

Written by Ryan Willerton


“Time flies” — how appropriate for our pilgrimage! The last 3 days have been a whirlwind of excitement and exhaustion for me, as well as my 18 pelerins (pilgrims).  It’s hard (and somewhat sad!) to believe that we will be leaving this beautiful country in just a few short days.  As I wake up in Le Mans for the second time and look across the town from room trois-zero-six at the Concordia Hotel, I give thanks to all those who have made this such a fulfilling experience.

Just three days ago we gathered outside the Main Building on Notre Dame’s campus to load a bus to the airport… at least that’s what I thought.  Sorin Circle was more than just a meeting location. Pilgrims from the 2015 and 2016 journeys joined us to offer us well-wishes, prayers, and last minute advice. Laughter and hugs (and a little bit of jealousy!) permeated our gathering. After a prayer from Fr. Pete McCormick, C.S.C., Director of Campus Ministry (and 2015-16 pilgrim), and remarks from Erin Hoffmann Harding, Vice President for Student Affairs (and 2016 pilgrim), I realized just how special this experience would be. We boarded the buses for the journey to O’Hare, and our fellowship began to form as we asked questions of each other and began to develop deeper relationships.

Shortly after arriving at Charles De Gaulle Airport in Paris, we were greeted by Fr. John De Riso, C.S.C., Rector of the Shrine of Blessed Basil Moreau. When I think about the charism of hospitality within the Congregation of Holy Cross, I can think of many C.S.C. priests who have made me feel so welcome at Notre Dame over the last 19 years… and Fr. John is no different.  It became apparent as we boarded our bus to Le Mans that we were in for what past pilgrims have described as a true experience in Holy Cross hospitality.

I have many memories that I look forward to sharing in the coming days!

Written by Ryan Willerton


One moth from now, 19 Notre Dame pilgrims will travel from South Bend, Indiana for a spiritual journey to holy sites in France, including Sainte-Croix, where Blessed Basile Moreau, C.S.C. founded the Congregation of Holy Cross in 1837.

For the last 3 weeks, pilgrims have spent time together to meet each other and prepare ourselves for a spiritual journey. Guest presentations by Professor Cunningham, Professor Clairmont, and Mimi Beck provided a foundation for an understanding of the Catholic Church in the 1800’s, Holy Cross Spirituality, and how to prepare ourselves so that the pilgrimage will be both a personally and professionally moving experience. You are welcome to follow our travels and reflections through this blog.

Come, Holy Spirit!