As the city of Philadelphia begins its final preparations for Pope Francis’ late-September arrival, in the Diocese of Camden, parishioners will start to see their own tell-tale signs of the pontiff’s nearing approach.
Starting the weekend of Aug. 15-16, parishioners will notice “knots” in the backs of their parishes that invite them to think about poverty in South Jersey.
“Over 190,000 people in the Diocese of Camden lack consistent access to adequate food. That’s 14 percent of the Diocese’s total population,” one reads.
“As of January this year, 200 veterans are homeless in the Diocese of Camden,” reads another.
The statistics are written on cards looped through a piece of twine, a knot tied at the top.
“The knots symbolize the ‘knots’ in the lives of people all around us in the Diocese of Camden,” said Kevin Hickey, executive director of the Diocese of Camden’s Catholic Charities agency. “We often don’t realize the extent of the problems in our own backyard. Of course, all of us also have our own ‘knots’ and so we’re called to join in solidarity, helping untie one another’s knots.’”
The knot symbol is inspired by Pope Francis’ devotion to Our Lady, Undoer of Knots and an art exhibit in the Archdiocese of Philadelphia by artist Meg Saligman that will welcome Pope Francis by displaying the “knots” of people from all over the region.
The thousands of knots that will be distributed throughout the Diocese of Camden were produced by St. John of God Community Services Fulfillment Center, a day program for adults with intellectual disabilities.
The appearance of knots in all of the Diocese’s parishes will launch 40 Days of Francis, Catholic Charities’ period of preparation leading up to the visit of Pope Francis. The official countdown starts on Aug. 17, exactly 40 Days before Pope Francis’ arrival in Philadelphia on September 25.
The knots will particularly draw attention to the highlight of the 40 day countdown: a series of open houses at each of Catholic Charities’ eight centers across South Jersey the week of Aug. 24.
These events will be an opportunity for parishioners and nearby residents from every county in the Diocese to get to know the Catholic Charities’ center in their community by meeting staff members and learning about programs and services and ways to get involved. The open houses will feature on-site service projects, guest speakers, food, and an opportunity for spiritual reflection, where visitors will join their ‘knots’ to those of others in the community through prayer.
“Forty days, traditionally, is a number signifying times of preparation in the Church,” Hickey said. “This is a pope who has aligned himself with the poor, so to prepare for his visit, we wanted to both raise awareness about poverty in our region, and provide parishioners the opportunity to become more involved with our work of responding to those needs.”
Other events during 40 Days of Francis will include a “food relay,” where a donation of food will make its way across the Diocese to each of Catholic Charities’ food pantries with the help of the Diocesan Catholic High Schools, and Catholic Charities’ annual Justice for All awards dinner. A complete schedule of open houses and other events can be found at CatholicCharitiesCamden.org/40days.
Schedule of Open Houses at Catholic Charities as part of 40 Days of Francis
Monday, Aug. 24, 4-6 p.m.
810 Montrose St.,Vineland
Tuesday, Aug. 25, 4-6 p.m.
9 North Georgia Ave., Atlantic City
114 State St., Penns Grove
Wednesday, Aug. 26, 4-6 p.m.
25 Oak Street, Salem
Thursday, Aug. 27, 4-6 p.m.
1200 North Delsea Drive
Suite 1, Westville
Bridgeton, 4-6 p.m. (location TBD)
Friday, Aug. 28, 4-6 p.m.
1304 Rt. 47 South, Unit C1,
Saturday, Aug. 29, 11 a.m.-2 p.m.
1845 Haddon Ave., Camden