When the call from Washington D.C. came to Walk With Francis, Brooklyn and Queens decided to take up the challenge in a literal sense.
Catholic Charities from the Archdiocese of Washington D.C. invited the nation to #WalkWithFrancis through prayer, service and action as a welcome to the pontiff. In response, Catholic Charities Brooklyn and Queens organized a physical walk on Sept. 20 and invited all parishes to collect food for the needy during the same weekend.
Among those who participated in the 1.5 mile walk through Williamsburg was the youth group from St. Martin of Tours, Bushwick.
“I want people to know that Pope Francis is coming and that we are walking for a cause,” said Felix Cordero, 19.
That cause is to be in solidarity to the pope’s call of prayer, action and service, said Juan Bencosme, the youth minister from Bushwick who encouraged teens from the group to walk the Walk.
The parish organized a food collection and was happy to accept the opportunity to show their Catholic identity by joining Catholic Charities in the public demonstration, Bencosme said.
“We are a community on the move,” said Msgr. Alfred LoPinto, CEO, Catholic Charities Brooklyn Queens. “We are bringing the Good News.”
Msgr. LoPinto said Pope Francis has called Catholics to bring their faith out in public view. The walk is one way of doing just that. The monsignor said he knows the grace of God will ensure the efforts undertaken during the walk will have an impact.
Catholic Charities worked with the Franciscan Conventual Friars who are hosting the San Damiano Mission in Williamsburg to bring the walk to the neighborhood. Father Raphael Zwolenkiewicz, O.F.M. Conv., said the walk aligns with the mission’s goal of evangelization to the young professionals who have been settling in the area.
Richard Slizeski, the vice president of mission for Catholic Charities Brooklyn Queens, said the walk, which featured prayers, songs and readings of Pope Francis in English and Spanish, was meant to bring to the forefront some of the areas the Holy Father has been emphasizing.
The walk featured four themes that were highlighted during four stops. The first was at McCarren Park where there was a reading based on ecology themes in “Laudato Si’.”
The second stop was at Catholic Charities Northside Senior Center where the pope was quoted as saying: “A people that does not care for its grandparents, a people that does not respect their elders, does not have a future, because they do not have a memory.”
The third stop was at Annunciation Church, a traditional Lithuanian church. “Immigrants and refugees are the strangers among us who needs to be welcomed with the joy of the Gospel,” the pope was quoted from the pulpit.
The fourth and final stop was at Our Lady of Mt. Carmel, a church that has a strong tradition of feeding the hungry. The pope was once again quoted: “Consumerism and a culture of waste have led some of us to tolerate the waste of precious resources, including food, while others are literally wasting away from hunger.”
The day ended with Mass at Our Lady of Mt. Carmel where Msgr. Joseph Calise, pastor, welcomed the participants.
Msgr. LoPinto said this is just the beginning of the initiative. He said he hopes the walk will continue beyond the pope’s visit well into the Year of Mercy.
Slizeski said a special ministry to the elderly is already in the works. Bencosme said he will work to make sure that this will not be the last that Brooklyn neighborhoods hear of the Walk with Francis.
During his visit to New York, Pope Francis is scheduled to receive a book of names of all the people who have participated in the #WalkWithFrancis initiative.