Disciple of Saint Padre Pio plans to walk to Beloit from Wichita

David Weldon will pull his camping and other needs in a small trailer on his St. Padre Pio pilgrimage. (Courtesy photo)

David Weldon has always been captivated by pilgrimages.

He is intrigued by documentaries about the Camino de Santiago and has walked the Kansas Camino, a 60-mile pilgrimage from Wichita to Pilsen, the hometown of Servant of God Fr. Emil Kapaun, whose cause is under consideration by the Holy See.

When he learned from an article in the Catholic Advance that a first-class relic of his unofficial patron, St. Padre Pio, is now housed in a newly-established Saint Pio Chapel in St. John the Baptist Catholic Church in Beloit, he began dreaming of a pilgrimage to the chapel.

“My imagination and a little bit of the Holy Spirit was involved,” he said last week. “I just began envisioning a pilgrimage. That’s what I’ve been doing over the last number of weeks.”

Scouting the route

Weldon, who attends St. Paul University Parish at Wichita State University, said he drove to Beloit to visit the Saint Pio Chapel and since then has been poring over maps, and exploring some of the routes to determine a walking route away, as much as possible, from high-traffic roads.

“The biggest obstacle has been figuring out where to camp and where to stay,” he said. “I finally have it nailed down – what the route is going to consist of and where I’m going to be staying. In the whole process I was looking at staying at Catholic parishes along the way. For example, in Halstead, McPherson, and Lindsborg, and then going into the Salina diocese in Brookville. That’s basically it. The rest time was going to be at city parks.”

Weldon, no relation to the diocesan priests, said he has begun training for the pilgrimage and has set a tentative date to take his first step on Sunday, June 9. He estimates it will take about 10 days to walk the roughly 150-mile trip that takes about two hours and 15 minutes to drive via the interstate and U.S. highways.

A daily rosary walk

“I go for a rosary walk in the morning and was already into a regiment of walking but no more than three to four miles max,” he said. “So, I’ve been upping that distance, and every weekend – either a Saturday or Sunday – I’ll push it. Yesterday I did a 10-mile walk.”

He estimates that at most he’ll walk about 20 miles in one day in what he describes as a walking retreat.

“The one thing about retreats that I’ve been on is that they’re pretty much static. I’ve got to be moving on. And I’m also going to wait and just kind of see what God shows me along the way,” he said.

Another reason for the pilgrimage, Weldon said, recalling Henry David Thoreau’s quote, “I went into the woods because I wished to live deliberately,” is because he wants to learn what God wants to teach a 66-year-old former avid cyclist.

Walking for those who can’t

The pilgrimage is also a burden he wishes to carry. “I’m walking for those who can’t. There’s a whole gamut of reasons but I guess the bottom line for me is just to see what God wants to show me. I really have to believe that the Holy Spirit prompted me to even consider this.”

Weldon said he is dedicating his pilgrimage, in part, to a dear friend who was hit by a car Monday, April 8, while walking in training for the Kansas Camino.

Although his wife, Laura, offered to follow him on his “Camino de Pio” with a support vehicle, Weldon declined. He’s planning to pull a small trailer with the gear he’ll need for the trip. “I want to see if I can do this on my own. I want to see if I can do it…to be more dependent on my own wherewithal but also trusting in God’s providence.”