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Denver Priest Leads Pilgrimage to Hometown of Philadelphia for Pope’s Visit

Father Joe Doman was born and raised in Philadelphia, a city known for its rich historical landmarks, cheesesteak sandwiches, and of course, Father Doman’s favorite NFL team. However, after last week’s World Meeting of Families, it will likely gain an additional claim to fame: being the city that hosted Pope Francis during his first U.S. visit.

Father Doman led a pilgrimage to his hometown of Philly with parishioners from Immaculate Heart of Mary in Northglenn, where he resides as the Parochial Vicar, for the World Meeting of Families. While there, he concelebrated the Papal Mass with the Holy Father himself, along with hundreds of other priests and bishops from all around the world, including our very own Archbishop Samuel Aquila, whom Father Doman managed to snap a selfie with. The city was completely shut down for Pope Francis’ visit, a fact that Father Doman said speaks to the impact of his time there.

“If U2 came to Philadelphia, the city wouldn’t shut down. If the President came to Philadelphia, we wouldn’t shut down the city. For whatever reason, we shut down the city for the Pope because there’s something different about it,” he said.

Fr joe selfie
Father Doman snaps a selfie of himself in a line with fellow priests and bishops as they process to the Papal Mass. Photo courtesy of Father Doman

Being from Philly, Father Doman knows how the city operates and what the people are like. It’s normally not a very friendly city, he said, and people tend to keep to themselves. But it’s not every day that Pope Francis comes to your city, and while Father Doman was there, he observed a different sort of atmosphere altogether, one that he wasn’t accustomed to.

“It was beautiful to see the city so transformed,” said Father Doman. “There was this joy and friendliness and excitement that was just beautiful to see. I could see that it was affecting more people than just the people who came in town to see the Pope.”

Philadelphia has a history of strong faith, Father Doman said, even being the only U.S. city which produced two saints, but sadly, that faith has dwindled over time.

“The faith that built the church in Philly is kind of dead and gone,” he said. “It’s almost like a massive aircraft carrier with a little rowboat rudder on it.”

Father Doman’s prayer during his time in Philadelphia was, “Lord, renew this city.”

The Pope’s visit might have been just what the city of Philadelphia needed to get its spiritual engines running the way they once did.

The city was energized and charged with something that came from above, Father Doman said. He likened it to Pope Saint John Paul II’s visit to Denver in 1993 for World Youth Day, and hopes it marks a turning point and renewal for the Archdiocese of Philadelphia just as that visit did for the Archdiocese of Denver.

Father Doman witnessed the immediate effects of Pope Francis’ U.S. visit while in Philadelphia, and is also seeing equally as profound residual ones. The media coverage of the Pope’s visit has sparked a renewed interest in the Catholic faith by mainstream culture, which is perhaps just what the Church needs at this point in time in order to clarify some oft-misunderstood tenets of her doctrine.

“There’s a stage from which members of the church can articulate the beauty of the church’s teaching to the world because everybody’s watching,” Father Doman said. “At least things are being talked about.”

Aaron Lambert
Aaron is the Managing Editor for the Denver Catholic.
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