Pastor attacks debt using feet

By Patrick Butler | Contributor
Sunday, June 19, 2011

Pastor attacks debt using feet

Father Timothy O'Malley, pastor of St. Joseph Parish in Round Lake, second from left, prepares to receive a blessing and send-off from parishioners as he leaves on a walking pilgrimage to Wisconsin with several companions June 12. The pastor is using the walk to raise money to reduce the parish debt. Standing to his sides are Jesus Alvor and Joshua Patino, both of whom also made the pilgrimage. (Karen Callaway / Catholic New World)
Andreas Rogoz, who also made the pilgrimage, says goodbye to his dog Princess before leaving for the walk. (Karen Callaway / Catholic New World)

For the past month, “boot prints” have been “walking” along the walls at St. Joseph’s Church in suburban Round Lake and they’ve been walking toward a statue of the Blessed Mother in Wisconsin.

The Parish Life Committee has been selling the markers to help retire a parish debt while Father Timothy O’Malley and 10 parishioners trek 160 miles to the Shrine of Our Lady of Good Help in Champion, Wis., site of the first officially confirmed Marian apparition in the United States. The pastor received $9,000 in pledges for the walk.

O’Malley said he trained “an hour a day, five days a week, sometimes more, running, jogging, walking.”

Just to get an idea for what lay ahead, O’Malley and some of the other walkers hiked the 18 miles from St. Joseph’s to the LaSalette Shrine in Twin Lakes.

“My hips were a bit achy, but I’m glad I did it. They tell me if you can walk 18 miles, you can do 36,” he said.

O’Malley and his band of pilgrims including Father Gregor Gorsic of St. Andrew the Apostle Parish in Romeoville started for real on June 12 — Pentecost Sunday — sauntering 12 miles to St. Benedict’s Abbey in Benet Lake, Wis., then would spend the next five days doing 30 miles a day.

While the ages of the walkers probably range from 18 to 80, O’Malley admits he’s had to be “realistic” in explaining the trip’s demands to some people.

But not to Juan Lara Jr. A landscaper by trade who does a lot of walking and physical work as part of the job, “Junior” is also a soccer player who practices twice a week to be ready for games.

“I feel comfortable, and I feel ready,” said Lara, who’s also a youth group coordinator at the predominately Hispanic parish and sees the six-day walk as “an opportunity for reflection, as well as a way to help out the church.”

When they reach Our Lady of Good Help, O’Malley and Gorsic will say Mass, then they will all head home — by car.

“We’ll be very excited to get there,” O’Malley said. “And we’ll be very excited to get home.”