Reflections from the road: Feet for Francis Day 1



Got home from the Feet for Francis/Pilgrimage of Love and Mercy in the wee hours Sept. 28 and had two days to put together a nice, fat 40-page Oct. 1 issue of the Catholic Review. Resting and getting reacquainted with my family in the days since, haven’t had time or energy to jot down my thoughts from eight days on the road. Rather than put them down in the journal I began in 1991, going to look back, between today and next Sunday, Oct. 11, each day over what was happening two weeks ago.
When the Lord closes a door, somewhere He opens a window.
That was among Maria’s lines in “The Sound of Music.” It came to mind at the Baltimore Basilica Sept. 20, when Father Jack Lombardi celebrated 10:45 a.m. Mass that served as a send-off for his pilgrims. Father Jack wasn’t getting in the way; he was helping fill a scheduling void at the Basilica, a parish still very much in mourning over the death of its rector, Monsignor Art Valenzano. At one point in his homily, Father Jack asked me to stand and be acknowledged, for suggesting the walking scheme. In a few days, I would feel not like a co-leader but more like the Wizard of Oz, the not so great and powerful who kept losing his way. More on that in the coming days.

Casey Buckstaff, principal of St. John the Evangelist School in Severna Park, right, and Kathy Hamlett, her administrative assistant, walked the first day of the Feet for Francis/Pilgrimage of Love and Mercy.

Kathy Wandishin, the administrative assistant at the Basilica, and Deacon Robert Shephard helped us open doors there, and at the Catholic Center. Some people give, from dusk to dawn. The Church of the Nativity in Timonium delivered a 15-foot sub to Borders Hall for our lunch, and the parishioner doing the honors was Michael Downes – the same Michael Downes who is the director of the Monsignor O’Dwyer Retreat House in Sparks.

Finally on foot and still getting the hang of the mini-tablet loaned me by social media coordinator Maureen Cromer, I bungled videos of Jesuit Father James Casciotti at St. Ignatius Parish, and then Dominican Father Dominic Bump at Ss. Philip and James. (Maureen the social media machine was there to video us at the Review). Thankfully, mercifully, I got the hang of the device.
The day’s pilgrims included Father Jack, myself, 20 other walkers who were there for the entire pilgrimage, others who jumped on and off as their schedules dictated – and two women who had time only for day one. Casey Buckstaff is the principal of St. John the Evangelist School in Severna Park, among the best and brightest young administrators in the archdiocese (sorry about the Clemson-Notre Dame football score, Casey). She and her administrative assistant, Kathy Hamlett, walked with us, from the Basilica to St. Ursula in Parkville. A co-worker was waiting there, to get Casey to a college class. I asked Casey to share her thoughts, on why she spent a precious day off with us. She sent the following at 10:38 p.m. that night:
Hi Paul,
Finally walked in my door and thinking of you all there at St. Ursula. Thank you for allowing us to share this first day with you. As I think about the time walking through the city, considering the people who saw us along the way, those who saw the yellow shirts moving through their neighborhoods and along sidewalks they walk each day, my heart is excited. As a school leader, I count it as one of my biggest responsibilities and greatest blessings to model my Catholic faith for the children in my care. Being a pilgrim along a spiritual journey is who we are each day, and being a pilgrim on a journey to join thousands more was a beautiful gift to share, with you all and for my students. It is a way to live my own faith and to reflect on our shared faith as a larger church. It is a way to connect the heritage of pilgrimage, of tradition, with the hope and joy we carry forward as Catholic people who are in awe of our Holy Father who is here to pastor us now in this week ahead. I wish you all many blessings along the way.
And a good night of sleep!
Be well, Casey

Catholic Review

The Catholic Review is the official publication of the Archdiocese of Baltimore.