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.”

COMING UP: Q&A: USCCB clarifies intent behind bishops’ Eucharist document

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Last week, the U.S. bishop concluded their annual Spring meeting, during which much about the Church in the U.S was discussed. In particular, the bishops voted to draft a document on the meaning of Eucharistic life in the Church, which was approved by an overwhelming majority.

Since then, speculation about the nature of the document has run rampant, the chief of which is that it was drafted specifically to instigate a policy aimed directly at Catholic politicians and public figures whose outward political expressions and policy enactment do not align with Church teaching.

The USCCB has issued a brief Q&A clarifying the intent of the document, and they have emphasized that “the question of whether or not to deny any individual or groups Holy Communion was not on the ballot.”

“The Eucharist is the source and summit of Christian life,” the USCCB said. “The importance of nurturing an ever
deeper understanding of the beauty and mystery of the Eucharist in our lives is not a new topic for the bishops. The document being drafted is not meant to be disciplinary in nature, nor is it targeted at any one individual or class of persons. It will include a section on the Church’s teaching on the responsibility of every Catholic, including bishops, to live in accordance with the truth, goodness and beauty of the Eucharist we celebrate.”

Below are a few commonly asked questions about last week’s meeting and the document on the Eucharist.

Why are the bishops doing this now?

For some time now, a major concern of the bishops has been the declining belief and understanding of the Eucharist among the Catholic faithful. This was a deep enough concern that the theme of the bishops’ strategic plan for 2021-2024 is Created Anew by the Body and Blood of Christ: Source of Our Healing and Hope. This important document on the Eucharist will serve as a foundation for the multi-year Eucharistic Revival Project, a major national effort to reignite Eucharistic faith in our country. It was clear from the intensity and passion expressed in the individual interventions made by the bishops during last week’s meeting that each bishop deeply loves the Eucharist.

Did the bishops vote to ban politicians from receiving Holy Communion?

No, this was not up for vote or debate. The bishops made no decision about barring anyone from receiving Holy Communion. Each Catholic — regardless of whether they hold public office or not — is called to continual conversion, and the U.S. bishops have repeatedly emphasized the obligation of all Catholics to support human life and dignity and other fundamental principles of Catholic moral and social teaching.

Are the bishops going to issue a national policy on withholding Communion from politicians?

No. There will be no national policy on withholding Communion from politicians. The intent is to present a clear understanding of the Church’s teachings to bring heightened awareness among the faithful of how the Eucharist can transform our lives and bring us closer to our creator and the life he wants for us.

Did the Vatican tell the bishops not to move forward on drafting the document?

No. The Holy See did encourage the bishops to engage in dialogue and broad consultation. Last week’s meeting was the first part of that process. It is important to note that collaboration and consultation among the bishops will be key in the drafting of this document.


Featured photo by Eric Mok on Unsplash