As we draw ever closer to the 10th Annual Walk to Mary on Saturday, May 6th, we thought it important to share with our listeners and readers just how significant that milestone is. Ever since its inception in 2013, the Walk to Mary has been changing the lives of its pilgrims by guiding them to Our Lord through His Blessed Mother, Mary.
No matter what the intention, big or small, and no matter your state in life – Catholic, atheist, hopeful, desperate, wealthy, destitute, accompanied, alone – Our Lady is waiting for you with open arms. Just as an earthly mother would do anything to protect us and make us happy, our heavenly mother would go even further.
In speaking with Pat Deprey and Tom Schmit, co-founders of The Walk to Mary, they recounted numerous stories of those who had brought their needs and desires to Our Lady and found exactly what they needed. Their testimonies are so inspiring, and a real testament to the miracles that have taken place at the now Shrine to Our Lady of Champion.
One pilgrim named Mariusz is responsible for bussing groups of Polish pilgrims (most of whom don’t speak English) to the walk every year. Another pilgrim named Matthew and his wife had difficulty having children. Almost exactly nine months after completing the walk, they welcomed a baby boy into the world. His middle name is Mary. Another named Maria has been inviting people from her Hispanic parish to the walk for years, and this year, she will be bringing over fifty people, plus a band that will be playing music for Our Lady on the last leg of the walk.
As the saying goes, you would love everyone if you knew their story. Everybody has a story. Everybody brings something important to The Walk to Mary, even if they don’t quite know what it is yet.
Enter Myrna Herrbold, a Lutheran woman who just so happened to live next to Pat and Julie Deprey. Little did she know that what Pat and Tom were about to do would change her life forever. I sat down with Myrna to ask her about her life, her experiences with The Walk to Mary, and how Our Lady’s intercession impacted her.
Q: What is your name and where are you from? Tell me a little bit about what it was like growing up: your family life, the area you grew up in, your exposure to Catholicism and religion in general.
A: My name is Myrna Herrbold, and I was born in Sturgeon Bay on May 13, 1950. I am from a family of six children: Lory (1941), Judy (1943), Bruce (1945), Myrna (1950), Rita (1951), Dean (1954), and two loving/forgiving parents Eldon (1915) and Audrie (1918) Watkins. We grew up in a home just south of Sturgeon Bay in the town of Nasewaupee (Door County, WI), near Potawatomi Park. My dad’s parents lived in an apartment attached to our home. We had a large garden, a large strawberry patch, and a large raspberry patch to feed 6 children. More likely, it was to keep us busy working in the summer (we also picked cherries). I was baptized at Trinity Lutheran church Ellison Bay on June 11, 1950, and confirmed at Bay View Lutheran church Sturgeon Bay on May 17, 1964. Growing up, I do not remember ever missing church on Sunday. Every other Sunday after church, we would travel to Ellison Bay to visit my mother’s parents. My first time at a Catholic Mass was November 1, 1964. I was a freshman at Southern Door high school, and I went to All Saints Day Mass with a friend and her parents. I will never forget the altar boys assisting the priest, the bells, and how I felt the presence of Jesus.
Q: How old were you when you first heard about The Walk to Mary? As a non-Catholic, what inspired you to pursue a pilgrimage like this to Our Lady?
A: I was 62 years old at my first Walk to Mary. As a non-Catholic, it was my neighbors Pat & Julie Deprey that invited and inspired me to join the first Walk to Mary in 2013. In May 2020 Pat & Julie also let me know about the Family Rosary Across America. What a blessing that has been. It really made me feel good when Father Rocky would say you do not need to be Catholic to pray the rosary.
Q: What was your first year at the Walk to Mary like? Did anything stand out to you in particular?
A: My first year was unforgettable. Listening to pilgrims praying the rosary, arriving at Our Lady of Good Help, entering the shrine, [attending] Mass sitting between Pat and Julie, I felt blessed (like it was 1964 again).
Q: What sort of intentions did you bring to the Walk to Mary? And how did you witness Our Lady’s intercession in action in your life? In other words, what kept you going back year after year?
A: Every year I bring protection intentions for my son and three grandsons. I remember my deceased family members: my husband, Mark, who died suddenly at the age of 48 on March 1, 1996, my dad (1987), my mom (2020), Lory (2013), and Bruce (1999). And there are friends/family/neighbors that I pray for on the walk. This year I will add my son’s work partner’s twin son and daughter. They are receiving First Eucharist on May 6th in Pensacola. I am not sure what brings me back to the Walk to Mary each year. I just know that it’s like what my son says about Pensacola sunrises: It “never gets old”. How did I witness Our Lady’s intercession in action? When my son started working in Pensacola he was living on his boat at a marina. In September, 2020, when Hurricane Sally was supposed to head west of Pensacola, she suddenly turned and headed directly for Pensacola. The marina came apart. My son put on a lifejacket; it was probably the first time he had a lifejacket on since he was 5 (he was 50). He survived, but the boat was a total loss. My prayer intention will always be for the protection of my son and grandsons.
Q: At what point did you feel a definitive pull towards being baptized into the Catholic Church? And when did you actually enter the Church?
A: In July 2020, when the Catholic churches started having services again, I started attending St. Francis Xavier in De Pere (a short walk from my home) because Incarnation Lutheran, where I was a member, treasurer, council member, and altar guild, was not ready to open. Even after Incarnation started having services again, I continued to attend Mass at St Francis and services at Incarnation until Incarnation discontinued ministry on January 8, 2023. In September 2021, there was an announcement in the bulletin inviting anyone that wanted to know more about the Catholic Church to come to a meeting in the Pennings room at Old St. Joe’s on the St. Norbert campus. I attended that meeting, and on April 16, 2022, at the Easter Vigil I was confirmed at St. Mary’s in De Pere.
Q: How have you changed in comparison to the Myrna Herrbold from ten years ago? How have God and Our Blessed Mother played a role in that? What would you say to someone who is unsure about going to the Walk to Mary?
A: Faith/church has always been a big part of my life. Confirmation, being received into the Catholic church, was the beginning of the rest of my time here on this earth and I am so thankful. The Walk to Mary, praying the rosary with Father Rocky, St. Francis Xavier, St. Mary’s, the Stations of the Cross, Easter Vigil, and Bible in a Year and Catechism in a Year with Father Mike Schmitz and Ascension Press have had a great impact on my life in the past 10 years.
I would encourage everyone to join the Walk to Mary pilgrimage for the benefit of Catholic education. It is good for the soul. If you do not want to walk the 21 miles, join for 7 in the beginning, the 7 in the end, or join in at any point. You will forever remember the pilgrimage from Old St. Joe’s in De Pere to Our Lady of Champion. It was a conversion experience for me, and I am forever blessed to be a member of St. Francis Xavier Catholic Church in De Pere.
Myrna has gone to every single Walk to Mary since the very first one in 2013. She, along with everybody who truly seeks the truth, is the reason why we do what we do. Through her life, we can see just how impactful The Walk to Mary is to those around it. We hope that this story of conversion inspires those who read it to see every day – and especially May 6th – as an opportunity to grow closer and to bring others closer to God through Our Blessed Mother.
To register for the 2023 Walk to Mary on Saturday, May 6th, go to WalktoMary.com, sign up, and join us as we journey to Our Lady next month.