Religious group walking 104 miles to greet Pope

Posted at 6:21 AM, Sep 21, 2015
and last updated 2015-09-21 06:21:35-04

A large contingent of people, along with Catholics, are anxiously awaiting the arrival of Pope Francis in the United States Tuesday where people around the world will be watching closely.

Still fully two days away from a visit to Washington DC, people in Baltimore are ready to receive his message.

Sunday, after a mass was celebrated at the Basilica of the Assumption, a group of 20-25 people embarked on a week long pilgrimage to Philadelphia where they planned to attend a papal Mass in seven days on Sunday.

Among those most excited, a younger generation of people inside and outside religious circles.

"I really, really like the Pope," said Shanon Pieper, a student at Delone Catholics High School in Hanover, Pennsylvania. "I think he's awesome."

That, said Fr. Jack Lombardi of St. Peter Church in Hancock, is why he is leading a walk of some 104 miles from Baltimore to Philadelphia.

"For young people today, there are so many pulls and pushes," he said, "so we hope that [the Pope's] witness and words lead the young people."

The journey will lead them to Philadelphia, but it's Francis' message of generosity and kindness toward those living in poverty that will guide them.

That's why, through a shoe collection sponsored mostly by the Archdiocese of Baltimore, the walk highlights what will eventually be the shipment of those shoes  to impoverished people around the world.

"That's part of being a follower of Jesus and being a friend of our church and the Pope," Lombardi said.

When the group arrives in Philadelphia, they will celebrate a papal Mass. Shanon Pieper will be there, hoping Francis' message continues to touch young people.

"I hope he realizes and knows and tells people that the kids are important because otherwise the church is going to die out, and that's not acceptable for me," Pieper said.

No stop in Baltimore, but Francis will be greeted at Andrews Air Force base by Baltimore Archbishop William Lori.