AUGUSTA — Seeking to raise awareness about the problems of teen addiction, depression and suicide and to pray for those affected by them, eight teenagers set off on a 70-mile pilgrimage that took them from St. Mary of the Assumption Church in Augusta to St. John Church in Bangor.

The pilgrimage began Aug. 30 and concluded Sept. 2 at St. John.

“We’ll be offering up the pilgrimage for people who are struggling with addiction or suicidal thoughts, so they might go out and seek help,” said Patrick Carter, 17, from Vassalboro, who was the driving force behind the pilgrimage, according to a news release from Dave Guthro, Roman Catholic Diocese of Portland. “Offering a pilgrimage for a cause is a powerful form of prayer, and prayer is the only way to reach those teens who won’t tell anyone about the feelings they have inside. This is the reason why we find it important to do this pilgrimage.”

“A pilgrimage is a powerful thing. We’re walking for awareness but also to show that there is hope … that there is hope for salvation, that there will always be hope even in the face of many evils and discouragements,” said Thomas Smith, 16, from Troy, according to the release.

The teenagers walked about 21 miles each day. On Thursday, they traveled up U.S. Route 201 from Augusta to Benton. Friday took them on Route 139 from Benton to Troy. Saturday, they walked on U.S. Route 202 from Troy to Hampden, and then finally, on Sunday, from Hampden to Bangor.

The teenagers stress that prayer is a central part of their journey.

“It gives meaning to the pilgrimage,” said Caleb Furst, 16, from Vassalboro, according to the release. “If there is no prayer, if there is no sacrifice, it’s not really worth it. We’re just going for a walk.”

“We believe that, through prayer, God will help people find help for this,” said Adam Therry, 17, from Benton, according to the release.

The teens said they their prayers will be offered for those battling addiction and depression, as well as for the souls of those who have committed suicide, and they will also be praying that those who are struggling will turn to Jesus and the church and find hope and healing through the sacraments of reconciliation and the Eucharist.

The teenagers who participated in the pilgrimage range in age from 15 to 18. They come from several central Maine parishes including Corpus Christi in Waterville, Prince of Peace in Lewiston, St. Agnes in Pittsfield, and St. Michael in Augusta. All of the young men are members of a discernment group that meets regularly in Sabattus with the Rev. Seamus Griesbach, director of the Office of Vocations for the Diocese of Portland. They said it was Seamus who inspired them to make the pilgrimage after they expressed a desire to try to make a difference in some way, according to the release.

“He suggested a pilgrimage, and we thought that was a great idea, especially so we can reach out through prayer to those people who might otherwise be unreachable, people who haven’t said anything to anyone,” said Carter, according to the release.

The evening before the pilgrimage, the teenagers gathered at St. Mary of the Assumption Church for the sacrament of reconciliation and to receive a blessing from the Rev. Arokiasamy Santhiyagu, HGN.

Each day of the pilgrimage, the youths had an opportunity to join in the celebration of Mass. The pilgrimage was originally planned for early August but took longer than expected to organize. Despite the delay, the teens were still able to participate because they are all homeschooled. Two other teens, not able to attend, prayed at home for the same intentions.

As they walked, the teens carried a flag that featured a pilgrim shell surrounded by a turquoise ring, a color signifying awareness of the problem of addiction.

Along the pilgrimage route, several checkpoints had been set up, where the teenagers met with adults to make sure they were doing okay.

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