Pilgrims Walk 100 Miles For Religious Freedom

ANTIETAM CREEK, Md. (CNS) – Three days and 30 miles into a 100-mile trek to Baltimore from the tiny central Maryland town of Hancock, Laura Dudich lost count of her blisters.

“My foot is covered in Band-Aids right now,” said the 17-year-old parishioner of St. Peter Church in Hancock, pausing briefly July 31 as she pounded the pavement along a farm-lined stretch of highway in Washington County.

“I’m determined not to quit,” Dudich insisted. “I want to go to the end. This is a cause I really want to stand up for.”

Supporting religious freedom was the goal of Dudich’s walk, which began July 29 at St. Peter and attracted 24 other Catholic pilgrims from throughout the area. Additional walkers joined the pilgrimage as it proceeded, swelling the group to 100 as it reached its final destination, the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary in Baltimore, Aug. 5.

Organized by Father John “Jack” Lombardi, administrator of St. Peter as well as St. Patrick in Little Orleans, the trek was designed to call attention to a new federal health care mandate requiring all employers, including most religious employers, to provide insurance coverage for sterilizations and contraceptives, including some that can cause abortions.

Led by a man carrying a flag emblazoned with “An Appeal to Heaven,” the pilgrims walked 13 miles a day – stopping at Catholic parishes and other locations along the way to sleep and refuel. They wore bright neon T-shirts with a message on the back: “We’re Walking for YOU!”