Catholic youths show their faith in 'Walk of Hope'

March 31, 1996|By Howard Libit | Howard Libit,SUN STAFF

Moving into Holy Week with a public expression of their faith, hundreds of young Catholics marched through downtown Baltimore yesterday with Cardinal William H. Keeler in the third annual "Walk of Hope" pilgrimage.

"We're walking to show the adults that there are a lot of good youths out here who have faith and believe," said Desiree Sanchez, 12, of St. Mary's parish in Govans. "We're not just troublemakers like the ones who get all of the attention."

The march -- known as the Catholic Pilgrimage for Young Adults and Youth -- re-creates an ancient Catholic Palm Sunday tradition and refers to the biblical story of Christ riding triumphantly into Jerusalem along a colorful path.

Wearing yellow handkerchiefs tied around their heads, necks or waists, the more than 1,200 youths took turns carrying a 12-foot-cross along Charles Street and sang religious songs, at times mingling with the Orioles crowd making its way to nearby Camden Yards for an exhibition game.

They marched behind banners proclaiming their home parishes and prayed at downtown sites, including Rash Field and Hopkins Plaza. Cardinal Keeler blessed and distributed palm fronds at the Paca Street home of St. Elizabeth Ann Seton -- the first American-born Catholic to be canonized -- and celebrated a Palm Sunday Mass at the Basilica of the Assumption.

The large turnout of youths -- estimated by organizers to be more than twice as many as last year -- clearly pleased Cardinal Keeler, who told them, "You're the church of today" and provide "the enthusiasm, the strength, the energy."

"Grown-ups can see the goodness in young people," he told the young Catholics. "In that way, you're a sign of hope not only to yourselves but to others."

The young Catholics who came from parishes across the state to participate in yesterday's pilgrimage agreed, saying their faith was strengthened by being with so many others their own age.

"For me, it's an experience to look out at all of the other young people who have come here," said Janina Kearns, 17, from St. John's parish in Columbia. "It feels so good to be surrounded by so many other people my age who all believe so strongly."

Yesterday's pilgrimage also was a chance for many of the youths to see friends they had made during last October's papal visit of Pope John Paul II. "I get to see a lot of the people again who I haven't seen since the we worked together for the Pope," said Ashley Candy, 21, a senior at Loyola College.

Pub Date: 3/31/96

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