By Paul McMullen
Nearly 110 miles on foot.
More than 15 tons of shoes donated.
And nearly $12,000 toward scholarships for inner-city students in the Archdiocese of Baltimore.
Those were the final tallies for the Feet for Francis/Pilgrimage of Love and Mercy, the walk from Baltimore to Philadelphia for the Sept. 27 Mass celebrated by Pope Francis that culminated his first visit to the United States.
The pilgrimage was sponsored by the archdiocese and Catholic Review Media.
Its charitable component included a shoe drive, organized by Florida-based Funds2Orgs. It ships donated shoes to micro-entrepreneurs in developing nations such as Haiti and Mali, and reimburses its fund-raising partners based on the total weight of their donation.
The shoes donated to Feet for Francis weighed in at 30,452 pounds, which allowed Christopher Gunty, editor/associate publisher of Catholic Review Media, to present Archbishop William E. Lori with a check for $11,906.90 Dec. 22.
“This is another example of what we call the ‘Francis Effect’,” the archbishop said.
The money will go toward Catholic school scholarships for students exhibiting the greatest need in Baltimore City, adding symmetry to an outreach in which other students played a major role.
The pilgrimage included a dozen teens and pre-teens, the majority being home-schooled. Catholic schools serving pre-K to grade 8, meanwhile were the biggest supporters of the shoe drive, none more so than Monsignor Slade Catholic School in Glen Burnie, which brought in 15 percent of all the shoes donated in the archdiocese.
“The energy surrounding this Feet for Francis project was contagious,” said Dr. Barbara McGraw Edmondson, superintendent of Catholic schools in the archdiocese. “As I visited elementary schools this fall, I found boxes, bins and carts overflowing with donated shoes and sneakers.”
Parishioners also got in the spirit. Paula Banack David, a parishioner of St. Luke in Edgemere, dropped off 84 pairs of shoes she collected from family and friends at Our Lady of Hope in Dundalk, one of the 30 institutions that formally registered with Funds2Orgs.
The pilgrimage itself received the assistance of numerous parishes, parish schools, Catholic high schools and colleges, not just in the archdiocese, but in the Diocese of Wilmington and the Archdiocese of Philadelphia.
Father John J. Lombardi, pastor of St. Peter in Hancock and St. Patrick in Little Orleans, was the spiritual leader of the pilgrimage.
“I am overwhelmed at the generosity,” he said of the shoe drive. “As one pilgrim said, after noticing so much giving along the way, sometimes people just need an inspiration or impetus.
“We are grateful for the efforts of all who planned this and rallied support to help the poor and needy of our world. We are all stewards of God’s gifts to us, to transfer some of the abundance given to us, to bestow upon those without.”