One month after my pilgrimage to Philadelphia, I am still processing the experience. There were many blessings!
After the lovely drive across Pennsylvania (even if I did not enjoy that long tunnel with construction going on), I participated in the Catholic Parent Revival on Wednesday, September 23 at St. Peter the Apostle Parish (which also houses the National Shrine of St. John Neumann, where his body now lies in state, enclosed in glass under the altar.) We listened to personal witnesses of married couples who integrated faith into raising their children. Thanks Jenni and Steve Angrisano, Maggie and Bob McCarty, and John Angotti. We were also invited to talk with fellow participants and pray for each other.
To read more about the parish/shrine, visit:
To learn more about CPR, visit:
You can also watch a recording of the CPR session that took place the next night near Philly:
and know that Dave Schmidt, Director of Pro-Life, Marriage and Family and I have discussed adapting the program to support families here in our diocese, so look for more on that in 2016.
On Thursday, after an educational visit to ther Liberty Bell and Independance Hall (hey, when in Philly...), where we saw the preparations for the Papal visit that would take place there days later, we went to the World Meeting of Families and were fortunate enough to see Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle, Archbishop of Manila, speak with such passion and joy. He discussed how we all have wounds and hurts, which can be great opportunities to rely on God. These woulds also help us to better witness to the saving power of God to others. You can watch a recording of his session, and several other session from the WMOF on their website:
These recordings are great for those who were not there to be inspired and learn from the sessions, and serve as great reminders for those who were there. (You may need to be patient as they begin or fast forward to the speaker you want to hear/see.)
It was interesting to see how many vendors and organizations exhibited at the WMOF. Some of the same I see at youth ministry events, lay ministry conferences and education convocations, while others were new to me. It is reassuring to know that there are so many resources around wanting to support the Domestic Church!
On Friday, I met up with the busloads of Youngstown folks who traveled with Wednt to see the theatrical production of "Joseph." Oh my goodness, the Sight and Sound Theater truly invests in the productions there, with support sound and staging. Also, real animals! The show also gave me new aspects of the Joseph story to ponder. If you are ever in the Lancaster, PA area, this is a worthy investment. Visit their website at:
We then enjoyed family-style dinner at the Hershey Farm Restaurant and Inn near the theater. What a fun evening discussing the play and to upcoming weekend plans with folks from Blessed Sacrament Parish (and others on the bus from there!)
Saturday brought the Festival of Families. This meant creative planning for transportation and packing for the day, but it was all worth it. Security lines moved along smoothly, over 3,000 port-a-pots were available, food vendors lined some streets, and jumbotrons helped those of us without tickets enjoy the entertainment, pray along, and view the parade.
I decided to settle in with a busload from the Solon area at JFK part near the Love Sign. There, we were fortunate to see Pope Francis go by in his Popemobile TWICE! It was amazing! (The picture above gives you one glimpse of my view.)
On the jumbotron, we enjoyed:
Nigeria/Igbo Community @ St. Cyprian Viva Mas
Mutya Philippine Dance Company
St. Thomas Syro-Malabar Community
Jackie Evancho (not sure why some Disney songs, but sounded lovely)
American Dance Wheels
Sister Sledge (We are Family!)
Jim Gaffigan (a few family-themed laughs)
MC Mark Wahlberg
The Philadlephia Orchestra
Comments and pray by the Holy Father
Andrea Bocelli (oh, that Lord's Prayer was fantastic!)
Juanes (although, I will admit, we started to head to the train station during his performance, nothing against him, it was just getting late!)
You can read more about some of these performers at:
We (we being most often my sister, Jenn, by the way, who traveled with me) went to the Cathedral where there was a temporary grotto dedicated to Mary, Untier of Knots, who is one of Pope Francis' advocates. They had strips of cloth on which to write the situation or people suffering with "knots" that need untied. These clothes were then hung around the grotto (or being knit into a tapestry, as you can see in the photo below of the woman at work.) It was a powerful place of prayer.
Sunday brought a lot of time to meet people from all around the globe as I chose the wrong side of the city to enter (retrospect, hundreds of thousands of us did not know at the time what was going on as security checkpoints were moving very slowly, being closed, redirecting people to another checkpoint, etc. for hours... while on the north side, they seemed to get inside in 30 - 120 minutes.) We gave up after a few hours, but not before meeting lovely faith-filled people from many states and countries. We also clapped along and sang a bit.
While I did receive text messages from friends who made it inside, we watched the parade from ComCast Center (where I was interviewed by a Philly paper and while misquoted, they spelled my name right, ha!), then settled in for a while near JFK Park. It was an interesting juxtiposition to have thousands sitting and sitting, attentive to a jumbotron while some vendors still tried to peddle their wares. Latter, we paused near City Hall and the thousands of Catholics who had celebrated Mass there, before heading back to the train station. It wasn't the day I planned or hoped for, and I really didn't fell like I was part of Mass, but I was very much part of a larger community that made the best of the situation and were singing and responding and celebrating!
Oh, I almost forgot, I also did my best to watch some of the coverage of the Holy Father addressing various audiences. I LOVED the address to the Congress. To have selected such different Americans to help make his points was inspired. It was challenging and motivating. Thank you for bringing forth some of the teachings and words of Abraham Lincoln, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Dorothy Day and Thomas Merton.
I also watched Pope Francis as the prison. Watching a work of mercy on TV was awesome.
If you missed (or want to read to review) any of the Holy Father's addresses or Homilies, know that theey are posted on the USCCB site at:
They also have a few on video to watch at:
I am sure that aspects of the pilgrimage will continue to occur to me, as the messages I heard and images I saw sink deeper into my soul. THANK YOU to everyone who has allowed me to share some of my story, and for those who have shared their experiences as well as that helps me consider additional insights! In any event, may we all be blessed by the visit of the Holy Father to our country.
I'll end this post with the final words of Pope Francis at the Closing Mass in Philadelphia:
Anyone who wants to bring into this world a family which teaches children to be excited by every gesture aimed at overcoming evil – a family which shows that the Spirit is alive and at work – will encounter our gratitude and our appreciation. Whatever the family, people, religion or region to which they belong!
May God grant that all of us may be prophets of the joy of the Gospel, the Gospel of the family and family love, as disciples of the Lord. May he grant us the grace to be worthy of that purity of heart which is not scandalized by the Gospel! Amen.
Have you heard that this Sunday (April 27), two new saints will be officially named....two blessed popes (John XXIII and John Paul II) will be elevated to help us remember to be inspired by their faith.
The Vatican has been posting information for our use at:
as have the U.S. Bishops Conference:
Here is a quick video that explains the canonization process (Thanks, Busted Halo for another great video!)
If you want a quick visual guide on the canonization process, CNS created this one:
A few personal thoughts:
Related to this historic moment of the canonization of two popes,
It JUST occurred to me moments ago that I have been SO fortunate to be in the presence of a saint....
I mean, I know that I am often near people filled with God's love so deeply that we can call them a saint, but this is a real-life, almost canonized (will be on Sunday) person. Wow. How cool is that?
I was "with" Blessed John Paul II in Denver 1993, Paris 1997, Rome 1999, Rome 2000, and Toronto 2002. Although I never got to talk with him one-on-one, I was within 5 feet of him twice and impacted by his ministry. Here are just a few memories:
Denver, August 1993 -- World Youth Day events
Papal Welcome on Thursday, August 12 at Mile High Stadium
--- Our group (Diocese of Cleveland) received tickets for this event, so we fed into the crowd funneling into the stadium. As we awaited the Holy Father, we sang songs, talked with teens and young adults from numerous countries, and we got wet -- it was raining!
However, as the helicopters approached the stadium, a rainbow arched in the sky, and the sun peaked out.....by the time Pope John Paul II greeted us, the rain had stopped! What a stunning moment for us all!
Here are the words he shared with us that evening:
Vigil Prayer on Saturday, August 14 at Cherry Creek Park
--- a long pilgrimage walk led us from downtown Denver to this large open area. Many of us Ohioans expected trees at the park, bu it was just an open area. The heat of the sun exhausted us, but the singing and prayer kept us going. Camping out with a half-million people is a unique experience!
Here are the Holy Father's words from the vigil:
Closing Mass on Sunday, August 15 at Cherry Creek Park
--- Despite dealing with altitude sickness/thinner air, lack of sleep, and some lack of adequate nutrition (McDonald's supplied the food stands for the week, and there was a minimal number of options, which caused some people to suffer digestive issues), the community rallied together for a fantastic outdoor Mass.
Here is the homily from that day:
Feast of the Immaculate Conception, December 1999 in Rome, Italy
--- Did you know that there is a tradition for the Holy Father to meet with faithful near at the Piazza di Spagna near the Spanish Steps in Rome at a statue of Mary to pray during the Feast of the Immaculate Conception? I did NOT know this until happenstance placed me there, and lo and behold, a car pulls up right next to where I am standing and I see Pope John Paul II get out to lead the prayer! Wow! There was even a moment when our eyes met, and I truly felt a sense of God's love rush over me. I know, it sounds a bit strange, as I was even surprised by it -- but this man definitely exuded a spiritual presence!
This was a much less formal celebration that the World Youth Day liturgies and events I had attended, so I was struck by the humbleness and "centeredness" of the Holy Father as he took a few minutes to venerate the Holy Mother at the statue.
I have more memories (and many more pictures), but this isn't really about me....although I am still amazed that I was able to be with a saint so many times. I cannot even imagine what it must have been like to be near Pope John XXIII, since he was so unexpected and ushered in so much change/rejuvination for the ChurchI hope that I can always stay focused on the GOOD done by these holy men so that I can be inspired to faith-filled in my daily life.
May we all be inspired by the witness of faith of both of these holy men!
St. John and St. John Paul, pray for us!
Here is a bonus news story on Popes as Saints:
Cindee Case, MAPS
Director of the Diocese of Youngstown Office of Youth and Young Adult Ministry.