Walking with Purpose is a weekly women’s Bible study group that has been growing in parishes of the Archdiocese of Philadelphia. Fifteen women got out of the parish meeting rooms and onto the streets of center city Philadelphia May 27 for a walking rosary procession.
After meeting outside the Cathedral Basilica of SS. Peter and Paul, the women gathered on the sidewalk before heading out along the Benjamin Franklin Parkway. (See our photo gallery of the event here.)
They prayed the rosary aloud and sang hymns on the way to the Philadelphia Museum of Art, and walked back to the cathedral to end with noon Mass.
Jillian Buhl, a member of the St. Thomas of Villanova Parish’s Walking with Purpose group, organized Wednesday’s walk, which was the third such rosary walk for the group.
The idea behind the walks, she said, is to make the Parkway a “gracing space” for the upcoming World Meeting of Families Sept. 22-25, and the visit by Pope Francis Sept. 26-27. On their walk they traced the very path the pope will take as he celebrates a public outdoor Mass on the parkway for up to an expected 2 million people on Sunday, Sept. 27.
The group is “praying for pilgrims coming to Philadelphia, that they will be protected and graced, and have a holy experience here,” Buhl said.
Additionally, Buhl said prayers are necessary to help all the World Meeting of Families staff and anticipated 10,000 volunteers pull off an event of this magnitude.
Armed with rosaries and Miraculous Medals for those who did not have them, Buhl told the women gathered for the walk that it would focus on Marian prayer and songs, and would end with prayer in front of the Miraculous Medal altar and Holy Family icon inside the cathedral.
“If you’re not a rosary-prayer, don’t worry,” Buhl assured the group, “because these prayers are a universal thing for gathering, and showing that we’re together in faith. If we choose to give these minutes of our day to God, he is pleased.”
The hope is for the walks to continue every week, according to Buhl. In preparing for the World Meeting of Families, prayers are specifically said for the strengthening of the family and through the intercession of St. Gianna, a co-patron saint along with St. John Paul II for the World Meeting of Families.
“We’d like to have as many people participate as possible,” Buhl said. “We tell people, ‘Join us on your feet, on your knees, or on your screen.’” The walk on May 27 was live-streamed on the Internet for women who were unable to make the physical walk on the Parkway but still wished to pray along with others.
“This is the first time it’s been a Marian walk,” said Geri McCann, a parishioner at St. Denis in Havertown. “It’s a wonderful way to prepare the space (for the World Meeting of Families), and a wonderful witness to people passing by and wondering what we’re doing.”
McCann hopes that as the World Meeting of Families grows closer, more women will be interested in joining Walking with Purpose and joining the weekly walks, too.
“It’s such a great reason to do this (walk), whether there are two or 20 of us,” McCann said. “I joined Walking with Purpose because we’ve moved back to Philly in the past year, and I was looking for two things: a Bible study and a community, especially one of other women. It was a great way to meet women of similar values.”