California pilgrimage Day 1: June 20

LOS ANGELES — A total of 42 pilgrims boarded an air-conditioned motor coach at Ss. Simon and Jude Cathedral Thursday morning bound for the Los Angeles area, where we are scheduled over the next 72 hours to visit cathedrals, historic missions, churches and a Carmelite monastery during the Diocese of Phoenix’s 2019 pilgrimage to California sponsored by the Friends of the Cathedral, the organization that promotes the identity of the Cathedral and supports her good works.

Although the group includes many different backgrounds and members of various parishes, one common thread binds the pilgrims together.

“We are not just tourists,” said Bishop Thomas J. Olmsted, who is leading the group. “Pilgrims are on the lookout for the Lord. They journey toward the Holy One with the desire and expectation to encounter Him in holy places and people.”


Following a drive across the desert of southwestern Arizona and San Bernardino County, Calif., we arrived at our first stop: Our Lady of Solitude Roman Catholic Church in Palm Springs for Mass. Formed in 1926, the parish moved into the Mission Revival style church in 1930 to host the area’s growing Catholic community.

Our Lady of Solitude in Palm Springs, California (Jeff Grant/CATHOLIC SUN)

Once a place of worship for many of the Catholic entertainers who frequented the Desert resort, the parish became a largely Hispanic congregation, beginning celebration of Mass in Spanish in the 1970s. It now also hosts worshippers from the Philippines, Central America, Vietnam, Peru and Iraq, according to its website.

“It was very beautiful, in a simple way,” said Natalie Doll, one of the pilgrims who attends St. John the Baptist church in Laveen, Ariz.; a church comparable in architectural style to OLS.

Following lunch, we boarded our bus for a 20-minute drive to see some of the canyons frequented by the area’s Native Americans centuries ago. Andreas Canyon was but one of several canyons that was part of the area home to the Agua Caliente Band of the Cahuilla Indians, who thrived on the canyon’s abundant supply of water, plants and animals. The plants provided seeds for food, medicines and basket-weaving.

“It was so beautiful; so peaceful,” said Rho Moran, who attends Our Lady of Perpetual Help in Glendale.

Free to hike and explore, some of us ventured well into the canyons for a look at the rugged rock formations and listen to the gurgling streams along the canyon floor.

From there, our bus brought us to downtown Los Angeles, where we would depart Friday for Mass and a tour of the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels, the mother church of the L.A. Archdiocese.

Other destinations awaiting us this weekend include:


“I’m looking forward to the missions,” said Moran. “This is part of our Catholic heritage and part of our Arizona heritage because the Jesuits came here also.”

While many of us have been on more than one diocesan pilgrimage, the group also has a large first-time contingent. But both veterans and first-timers can expect an experience they will remember always.

“We come from different paths depending on what we’ve been doing for the past year. But we really are not tourists,” said Most Holy Trinity parishioner Donna Kurgan.

“If we go as pilgrims,” said Bishop Olmsted, “we shall discover the truth of the Chinese proverb: ‘He who returns from a journey is not the same as he who left.’”

New encounters with the Lord await!