The idea for the “In the Spirit of Chartres” Committee (ISOC) was an unexpected outgrowth of a trip to France in the spring of 1997. Judith Sharpe, now president of ISOC, flew to Paris with her husband that year to take part in the historic pilgrimage from Notre Dame de Paris to the Cathedral in Chartres — a penitential walk that covered 72 miles in just three days. It was on that walk over Pentecost weekend that the Sharpes met other pilgrims from their then home state of Arizona, and their lives were changed forever.
After returning to the United States, these Arizona pilgrims became good friends and met frequently to reminisce about their Paris trip. From these meetings and a Sodality meeting at Our Lady of the Sun International Shrine, a seed that had already been unknowingly planted in France took root in the form of a plan to organize a pilgrimage at home. The idea would be to resurrect locally the centuries-old Catholic devotion to pilgrimages, most especially for the spiritual benefit of those who had no opportunity to participate in the magnificent Chartres Pilgrimage. Thus, in 1998, an idea inspired by a trip to France was given life in Arizona and the “In the Spirit of Chartres” Committee was born.
So it was, that the original Arizona pilgrims, along with many enthusiastic supporters from traditional Catholic chapels in greater Phoenix, organized their first pilgrimage. (See the ISOC video “The Making of the Phoenix Pilgrimages.”) In comparison to Chartres, the first Phoenix pilgrimage seemed to be not much more than a glorified Rosary procession. But what it lacked in size, it more than made up for in passion and spirituality, concluding with an outdoor traditional Mass in a downtown Phoenix park.
From that first pilgrimage in the spring of 1998, ISOC went on to organize and execute the “Catholic Restoration Conference” series: four annual three-day conclaves that took place in Phoenix and were attended by literally hundreds of traditional Catholics seeking to strengthen and enhance their knowledge of Tradition. These conferences generated dozens of still popular audio and videotapes featuring leading traditional Catholic speakers as they explored the Faith from a variety of perspectives. And it was at Catholic Restoration Conference II that ISOC introduced what is probably one of the most important documentaries of the past 25 years concerning the destruction of the Universal Church. “What We Have Lost…and the Road to Restoration” has been seen and acclaimed by thousands literally around the world.
Then in 2002, after five pilgrimages, major conferences, and a revolutionary documentary video, ISOC moved to Virginia, it’s current location. From there it instituted a series of dinner conferences and organized CRC IV in 2004, CRC V (an Internet series of ongoing interviews), CRC VI (a one-day conference in D.C.), CRC VII (a three-day conference in D.C.), always featuring prominent traditional Catholic speakers.
Divine Providence has kept this small apostoloate busy.
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