CS PHOTO BY JACLYN LIPPELMANN
Youth sort out donated food at the pantry at St. Martin of Tours Parish in Gaithersburg. Local Catholics are encouraged to prepare for Pope Francis’s visit to Washington by taking the Walk with Francis Pledge (see walkwithfrancis.org), and praying, serving and taking action on behalf of those in need.
CS PHOTO BY JACLYN LIPPELMANN Youth sort out donated food at the pantry at St. Martin of Tours Parish in Gaithersburg. Local Catholics are encouraged to prepare for Pope Francis’s visit to Washington by taking the Walk with Francis Pledge (see walkwithfrancis.org), and praying, serving and taking action on behalf of those in need.

I know some people think of me as a fundraising priest, and yes, that has been one of my roles for the archdiocese. If I have had “success” raising money, it’s more due to the people of this region who amaze me time and time again with their support and generosity.

I’m not going to ask you for a financial commitment today. I am, however, going to ask you to strongly consider a different kind of commitment. Similar to gifts of treasure, this one can help others, but it is just as much a gift to yourself. I’m asking you to prepare for Pope Francis’s visit to Washington by thinking about ways you can walk in solidarity with him and his message of living out the Gospel by loving God and neighbor.

Prior to my work at Catholic Charities, I was director of the Cardinal’s Appeal, and I remain involved with that annual effort as vicar for development. Once a year, we ask the people of the Washington area to support the many charities and good works of the archdiocese, and in my most recent assignment as head of Catholic Charities, I can tell you that I am most grateful for your generosity. We are blessed to receive some of your contributions to the Cardinal’s Appeal, and they allow us to do much to help our brothers and sisters in Christ.

On Labor Day weekend, there will be an opportunity for you to make a different kind of commitment. The Cardinal’s Appeal is about sharing treasure; the Walk with Francis pledge is more about your time, your talent and your heart.

At Masses that weekend, your parish will do something similar to what we do for the Cardinal’s Appeal. We are going to ask every person to make a commitment to “walk with Francis.” My dream is to see a huge number of people participate – for the Pope, for Jesus, and for themselves. What a great opportunity to make Francis’s visit more than a three-day event, but a time of spiritual and personal growth.

I know we all have busy lives, so the goal here is to do something simple and yet powerful, much like Francis himself. I encourage you to consider a pledge that is: 1) simple – it’s easy to do; 2) measurable – you can do it every day, or between now and the Pope’s arrival, etc.; and 3) flexible – you can do whatever speaks to you.

For example, could you pray for the pope every day until he arrives? He’ll be here in less than a month, so could you take a moment each day to ask God to bless Pope Francis, to guide him and to make Jesus known to us through him?

Could you read the articles here in the Catholic Standard from now until his arrival and spend a little time reflecting on them and what God might be saying to you?

Could you try to be a more kind and loving person as an acknowledgement of the presence of Jesus within you? Maybe it’s a little extra help for people at work or in your neighborhood who need assistance – something as easy as opening doors for others, saying hello or simply smiling more.

Or could you try to do something to make a difference in the world? Write a letter or sign a petition for world peace or efforts to end gun violence. Perhaps you could you speak to a leader – your pastor, a business executive, an elected official – about your concerns.

These are just a few ideas that I hope get you thinking. They fall into three areas we’re focusing on: praying and learning about the pope’s message, serving others, and acting to promote justice, human dignity and peace.

I pray that you will think about and make your own pledge, and then please let us know what you will do. We’re all in this together! You can do that by visiting www.walkwithfrancis.org, posting on Twitter with the hashtag #WalkWithFrancis, and filling out a small card at Mass on Labor Day weekend. All you will need to do is print your name and how many in your family are participating, check which category your pledge falls into (pray/learn, serve, act), and then write down your email address. We will check in with you a short time later just to see how you’re doing with your pledge.

In looking through the pope’s Twitter feed (@Pontifex) recently, I noticed the following: The Lord is knocking at the door of our hearts. Have we put a sign on the door saying: “Do not disturb”? I believe the Lord is using Francis’s visit to knock on the door of the whole Washington area. Participating in the pledge is our effort to open the door and say yes. A simple pledge to pray, serve or act can make a difference in your life and the lives of others. Will you join us?

(Msgr. Enzler serves as the president and CEO of Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of Washington.)