Motorhome pilgrimage

| Bridget Ryder | September 9, 2015 | 0 Comments

Three families expect the unexpected on road trip to see pope

Reinaldo Casarez didn’t hesitate to answer when Patricio Peña suggested they go to Philadelphia to see Pope Francis.

“We said yes,” Casarez recalled.

He knew Peña from his Minneapolis parish, Sagrado Corazón de Jesus, where Peña, also the coordinator of Latino ministry at Assumption in Richfield, volunteers in many areas of parish ministry among fellow Latinos. When Peña and his family heard Pope Francis was coming to Philadelphia, they knew they wanted to be there.

“The first thing we thought is it’s a blessing and we want to honor him here,” he said.

He found that other Latinos also wanted to express their love for a pope to whom they feel especially close because of his Latin American roots.

Casarez’s wife, Maria Isabel Tenorio, and their three children — Tony, 12, Osvaldo, 9, and Aaron, 5 — are joining in the adventure. Friends Patricia Rosas, her husband Jose Flores, and their two children — Freddy, 23, and Brian, 16 — will also be part of the crew. None of them have participated in a papal event before. Patricio Peña and his wife, Enriqueta Alfaro, also plan to take their four children, ages 4-13.

A true pilgrimage

The three families started planning the trip in January, the younger members taking the lead on Internet research. They plan to arrive four days before Pope Francis gets in town on Sept. 26, perhaps participate in a day of the World Meeting of Families, and hopefully catch a good glimpse of the pope.

The trip will also be an exercise in community building. They have rented a motorhome to take across the country and use as shelter during their days in Philadelphia.

The families are among scores of pilgrims from the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis traveling to Washington, New York and Philadelphia to see the pope. Large groups heading to Philadelphia are those St. Mary of the Lake and St. Pius X, both in White Bear Lake; youth sponsored by the archdiocese’s Commission of Black Catholics; and 26 in an archdiocese-organized pilgrimage, including Bishop Andrew Cozzens. Pilgrims from St. Pius X and the archdiocesan group plan also to attend the World Meeting of Families.

For the three families, one of the main challenges is getting time off work. Casarez works in construction, and with the season still in full swing in September, he hopes a letter from his pastor will convince his boss to give him the days off. Money is also something that they have had to take into consideration, especially when it comes to attending the World Meeting of Families. Rosas experienced sticker shock when she saw the conference price — $325 per person for the full registration package — but the group remains hopeful.

“We have a lot of faith and I don’t think there will be any problems,” Casarez said.

Peña said they have come to see the trip as a true pilgrimage. Whatever happens in Philadelphia, they want to bring the graces of the Holy Father’s visit back home to share with others.

“We want to live the grace that is going to be in this place,” Peña said. “It’s a blessing for all.”

Casarez has tracked previous popes’ journeys around the world, and he has been impressed by their humility and the peace they bring to even violent countries such as Mexico. He expects Francis’ visit to the United States will have the same effect.

Fortifying faith

For Patricia Rosas, traveling to Philadelphia is a way to fortify a renewed faith, but she also hopes that the experience will help her better serve others. Rosas said she and her family had been Catholic “in name only” until three years ago when a series of family difficulties led her to seek guidance from a parish priest she knew.  She realized she was “lost in ignorance of her religion,” and that this was also the cause of their family problems.

“I never felt that God had abandoned me; I just never thought of God because I never thought about my religion,” she said.

Since then, she and her husband have had their marriage blessed by the Church and received counseling. Their children also received the sacraments.  She hopes seeing Pope Francis will help her be a guide for others who are lost like she once was.

“It will be a great experience because he is the representative of God on earth,” she said. “My hope is that I am going to be more ready and able when people ask me for help, and to be able to help with love. This is what gets me excited about going.”

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Category: World Meeting of Families