It was a wonderful journey this past week to see events with Pope Francis in Washington, D.C. and Philadelphia. I hope to share with you some of the behind-the-scenes photos and thoughts that did not make it on main stream media. I started my journey last Monday exploring Washington, D.C. as they made preparations for the historic visit of Pope Francis. There was a lot of excitement in the air as many people were getting up welcome banners and the Secret Service was making many security preparations with fencing and signs. The Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception had banners up including one for our new American/Franciscan Saint Junipero Serra.
I visited the Saint John Paul II National Shrine and got a sneak peak at the new John Paul II Chapel that will be dedicated at the end of October. It is a beautiful chapel that has mosaics done by the same artist who did the mosaics for St. Padre Pio in Petrulucina in Italy. Pope Francis gave a drive-by blessing of the new chapel and visited the Sisters of the Poor next door later that week.
At the Franciscan Monastery, they were preparing for the Pope’s visit by lighting the entire Rosary Portico with luminaries during his visit. My Secular Franciscan Order fraternity sponsored a luminary honoring one of our sisters who has passed away, Mary Benza, O.F.S.
September 23rd – Papal Parade & Canonization Mass for Saint Junipero Serra
On the morning of the papal parade, I got up at 3:30am to get a front row seat for the parade and to hang a welcome banner the St. Margaret of Cortona Region of the Secular Franciscan Order. Washington was well prepared for the crowds and had 90 magnetometers to process the large crowds effectively and made my way to be in the front row on Constitution Avenue. I was surrounded by many Latino brothers and sisters who were very excited and drew lots of media attention, so the Good Morning America crew stayed near us during the parade and excited to get some tweets that people saw me and my sign on national TV.
Pope Francis met with President Obama in the morning and then came to see us on the parade route. This would mark the closest encounter with Pope Francis that I had during his US visit, and it was very inspirational to see him in person. I think that Pope Francis even saw my sign as he drove by the cheering crowds.
September 24th – Rally to support Climate Change and Poverty & Pope Francis Addresses Congress
Thursday was a beautiful day with many people from many faiths coming to the National Mall to support Pope Francis on the issues of climate change and poverty. There were great speakers from the Franciscan Action Network, Pax Christi, Greenpeace, and many faith organizations showing their support for Pope Francis and his efforts to save our common home. To be “green” even the support signs were made from recycled paper, that had wildflower seeds embedded so that they could be planted to make flower beds.
Great to see so many people from different faiths and cultures coming together in agreement that we need to make changes to help us protect Mother Earth.
The crowds fell silent for the historic speech of St. Francis to the US Congress. I believe this was one of his best speeches of his visit as he referenced four great Americans (Abraham Lincoln, Martin Luther King, Dorothy Day, and Thomas Merton) and how they model the great liberties and acts of mercy in American culture.
September 25th – Pope Francis’ Address to the United Nations & Visit to Ground Zero
While Pope Francis was in New York City, I travelled to Philadelphia to take in the World Meeting of families with my Secular Franciscan sister Elizabeth Eilers-Adams, O.F.S. We visited her hometown parish, St. John the Evangelist, to help them prepare for the crowds. Their parish was hosting many Masses as well as having the relics of Maria Goretti (The patron saint of the World Meeting of Families). Elizabeth and I helped in decorating the outside with garland to help the Capuchin friars.
September 26th – Pope Francis’ Address at Liberty Square and the Festival of the Families
September 27th – Pope Francis’ Mass for the World Meeting of Families
I was thankful to get a ticket to the Papal Mass in Philadelphia. It took us four hours in line to get through security, but was blessed to be able to receive communion as the papal umbrellas came out during distribution of the Blessed Sacrament. The crowds were more than Philly security could handle and sadly many where unable to make inside the gates in time for Mass. It was truly a great pilgrimage that I will remember all my life. I was very moved to meet Catholics from around USA and many other countries and feel even more strength in my faith after this experience. I have many more photos in a link below for you to enjoy.
One of my favorite summaries of this visit is from Fr. Jim Martin, S.J. — here are his three takeaways from Pope Francis’ visit: