Pilgrims welcomed by Camden Diocese, Catholic Charities

Pilgrims welcomed by Camden Diocese, Catholic Charities
Matt and Sue Kresich, and Scott Peters, pictured on Broad Street in Philadelphia where they watched the Sept, 27 papal Mass on a Jumbotron, were among a group of pilgrims who came from Gary, Indiana, to see the pope. Catholic Charities, Diocese of Camden, and local parishes provided hospitality. Photo by Carl Peters

Matt and Sue Kresich, and Scott Peters, pictured on Broad Street in Philadelphia where they watched the Sept, 27 papal Mass on a Jumbotron, were among a group of pilgrims who came from Gary, Indiana, to see the pope. Catholic Charities, Diocese of Camden, and local parishes provided hospitality.
Photo by Carl Peters

Pilgrims from around the world converged on Philadelphia area recently, drawn by the magnetism of the leader of the church and his message. One particular group of 150 of them arrived in South Jersey on Friday night, Sept. 25.

They had travelled 800 miles from Gary, Indiana. They were on a journey of faith, as meaningful for the road and companions as for the destination itself.

“I came because I want to be united to the faithful in prayer and to see the pope,” said Brooke Fowler, a recent college graduate who made the pilgrimage from Gary to Philadelphia with her mother.

“It’s powerful just to be with all of these people I didn’t know from my own diocese. It’s going to be amazing in Philadelphia. It’s a really profound experience when you’re praying and there are a lot of people praying with you.”

The pilgrimage began at 7 a.m. on Thursday morning when the group set off from Gary. They arrived to their hotel in South Jersey on Friday in the early morning hours. On Friday afternoon, they headed to St. Peter Church in Merchantville, where their bishop, Donald J. Hying, who travelled with them, celebrated Mass.

After Mass and a spiritual reflection with Bishop Hying, the pilgrims headed to the church basement where they were served hamburgers and hot dogs, beans and corn by Catholic Charities’ volunteers.

“This is what charity is all about,” said Lauren Monahan, a senior case manager for Catholic Charities. “To welcome people into our home, be able to feed them, and not to have a second thought about it.”

They were a diverse group, young children and seniors, English and Spanish-speakers. Whole families made the pilgrimage together, like the Patiño family: Martino, Maria and their three daughters: Lila, 7, Painalli, 9, and Anani, 6.

“I hope for them to experience the faith and unity of the people, to see how important family is and how important God is in the middle of the family,” Maria Patiño said. “If it wasn’t for God in the family, unity wouldn’t be possible in the family.”

The trip was led and organized by Jennifer Dyer, former assistant director of Catholic Charities, Diocese of Camden and now executive director of Catholic Charities of the Diocese of Gary. Her connection to the Diocese of Camden made the welcome possible.

As she addressed the group on Friday evening, she said the bonds she formed in the Camden Diocese had been hard to leave, but it was nice to know they had not been broken.

The following morning, Christ Our Light Parish in Cherry Hill opened its doors to the pilgrims for Mass celebrated by Bishop Hying and lunch provided by the parish. Bishop Hying celebrated Mass and led spiritual reflection each day of the pilgrimage.

“[What I hope for the pilgrims is] a deeper experience of Christ, a greater appreciation for the universality, the colossal nature of the church, and a greater passion to go home and put into practice the things the pope talks about — of getting your hands dirty in service to others, that sense of encounter,” Bishop Hying said.

On Sunday, the group checked out of their hotel in Mount Holly and drove in three tour buses to parking spaces in the Philadelphia sports complex. They finished their pilgrimage on foot, joining hundreds of thousands of other pilgrims from around the country and the world in Center City for the papal Mass.

For the volunteers who were part of the welcome barbecue on Friday night, the meal was a way of participating in the pilgrimage tradition. Kevin Hickey, executive director of Catholic Charities, Diocese of Camden, saw a connection between Catholic Charities’ mission of service and the spiritual practice of pilgrimage.

“As I reflected on hospitality I thought of the Canterbury Tales. This is an ancient practice,” Hickey said. “We practice hospitality to those we serve at Catholic Charities. It’s the same kind of thing with these pilgrims — ministering to those who have sacrificed, who have suffered, and offering them welcome.”

Categories: Latest News

About Author