Catonsville and Arbutus area parishes stay close to home to mark pope's arrival in U.S.

As the cities of Washington, D.C. and Philadelphia prepare for a papal visit later this month, some residents of southwestern Baltimore County are preparing to brave the crowds and possible heat for the chance to catch a glimpse of the man who has captured the attention of many in and outside the Catholic community since being named pope in 2013.

"As soon as I knew he was coming for sure, I said to Father John [Williamson], 'Maybe we should reserve some buses,'" said Bob Sutliff, pastoral associate at the Roman Catholic Church of the Ascension, in Halethorpe.


Within weeks of announcing to the congregation that there would be two buses available through the church to Philadelphia to see Pope Francis speak on the weekend of Sept. 26 and 27, all of the available spots were filled, Sutliff said.

"People are very excited to go," he said,


To help cover the cost of the bus rentals and the parking permits, there is a $50 charge to ride, Sutliff said.

The congregants and other attendees will leave from two points — the Blind Industries and Services of Maryland parking lot on Washington Boulevard and the lot at the Green Valley shopping center at Montgomery Road and Washington Boulevard in Elkridge — and then head north to Philadelphia.

The buses will take them to the most convenient train station, where they will then take the local train to get as close as service allows them, Sutliff said.

There will undoubtedly be a lot of walking, and there is a chance that they may be so far away that they may not even be able to see Pope Francis, but the trip will be worth it just to be there, experiencing the pope's first visit to the U.S., Sutliff said.

"I'm sure folks are excited just because they're going to be there," he said.

At the All Saints Sisters of the Poor convent at the end Hilton Avenue, near the border of the Patapsco Valley State Park, Sister Christina said none of the sisters are going.

Instead. they're hosting about 20 teens from a congregation in the Chicago area at their retreat house that week.

The teens will be staying on the convent grounds at night and traveling to Philadelphia during the day to hear pope speak.


"So we're just keeping house," she said.

Rev. Christopher Whatley said members of the St. Mark Catholic Church parish in Catonsville will be participating in the events surrounding the pope's visit by collecting shoes to donate to developing nations as part of a service project organized by the Catholic Review newspaper.

There are buses available through the Archdiocese of Baltimore for a select number of local priests to attend the events in Washington, he said, and there are limited tickets available for laypeople, but they've been going fast.

Among those traveling to Washington to see the pope speak there will be Rev. Michael Foppiano, pastor of Saint Agnes Catholic Church, said a parish office staff member.

The church is Old Frederick Road at St. Agnes Lane and Baltimore National Pike.

Staff at Our Lady of Victory Church, on Wilkens Avenue, said the congregation has nothing planned.


At the Little Sisters of the Poor nursing home on Maiden Choice Lane, Sister Lawrence Mary said some of the nuns are going in cars to D.C. to see the pope.

A much smaller contingent is driving to Philadelphia, she said, but could not say how many.

Those who remain at the facility on Maiden Choice Lane will join with the residents and watch what they can of the visit on television, she said..

At St. Clement, on Washington Avenue in Lansdowne, there are no official plans to attend events in either Washington or Philadelphia, said Deacon Paul Gifford.

Some congregants have joined in with other congregations planning on attending, Gifford said.

The pope will arrive in the U.S. Sept. 22.


From Sept. 22 to Sept. 24, he will attend a series of events in Washington, including a meeting at the White House and a speech to Congress.

He will then travel to New York to, among other stops, address the United Nations General Assembly before Philadelphia to host a Festival of Families on Sept. 26 and a Papal Mass on Sept. 27.

Both events are in front of the Philadelphia Museum of Art and are free, according to an Associated Press. Tickets for the two Benjamin Franklin Parkway appearances are not necessary, according to the AP, but don't expect to get closer than a quarter-mile, away. Getting within the 2.5 blocks closest to the stage on Sept. 26 or the altar on Sept. 27, will require a ticket.

This story has been updated.