Standing beside a statue called "Homeless Jesus," Msgr. John Enzler pledged to spend a night with the city's homeless before Pope Francis' visit in September.
Enzler, who is president of Catholic Charities, made the vow as part of Wednesday's launch of the "Walk with Francis Pledge," a campaign by the Washington archdiocese and Catholic Charities to get 100,000 people to take on a good deed in preparation for the pope's visit.
While most of those attending the campaign's launch were affiliated with Catholic Charities, the idea is to mobilize lay people in the D.C. area to take on prayers, social action projects or community service, building on the momentum of Francis' first apostolic visit to the U.S.
"One of the beautiful gifts of Pope Francis is his ability to include everybody, and this effort to 'Walk with Francis' includes everyone who wants to be a part of it," said Cardinal Donald Wuerl, archbishop of Washington. "Everybody can do a good deed for a brother or sister."
As people make pledges on the campaign's website and social media, they are encouraged to post photos and videos of their pledges in action, using the hashtag #WalkwithFrancis, then challenge a friend to do the same. The pledges will be collected in a book and presented to Pope Francis when he visits Catholic Charities on Sept. 24.
Among those excited by the pope's upcoming arrival was Catholic Charities Corporate Controller Fred Sarran, whose bright blue yarmulke, or skullcap, stood out in the crowd of nearly 50. Sarran, who is Jewish, pledged to continue working with the homeless and, more specifically, to volunteer at a homeless shelter on Christmas so Christian volunteers can be with family, in honor of the pope's visit.
"He's wonderful," Sarran said. "[His] outward-looking inclusiveness is wonderful. And I think more people, more religious leaders, more politicians should be that way and reach out."
So far, 22 organizations and 390 individuals have made pledges, according to an ongoing tally on walkwithfrancis.org.