About 1 million people this past week made the journey to Philadelphia. Some came from as far as Vietnam and others coming from right in the city, but all of them were coming for the same reason, Pope Francis.
I was one of those people. On Sept. 26 and 27, I made the hour trek from Cabrini College to the Benjamin Franklin Parkway in Center City, Pa.
I was there both as an attendee and as a volunteer with Cabrini. This not only gave me an inside look at how the World Meeting of Families was run, but the bright orange volunteer shirt they gave me acted as sort of a pass to get me into the ticketed areas.
Both Saturday and Sunday, they had me standing at the entrances, answering questions and directing people where to go. Sunday was significantly more crowded than Saturday but even with the extra people the work was never overwhelming, just tiring and hard on the feet.
The real fun always began after I got off of my volunteer shift, when I could wander around and take in all that the World Meeting of Families had to offer.
On Saturday, almost as soon as I finished my shift, myself and two other Cabrini volunteers, Sarah Davis and Missy Matsanka, went and found a spot for the papal parade. By the time we found a place along the parkway, it was almost three o’clock.
Pope Francis was supposed to do the parade after his 4:45 p.m. ad- dress, so we thought we would only be waiting there for at most two and a half hours. By the time seven o’clock rolled around and he still hadn’t come by, all of us were exhausted from standing for so long and tired of all of the pushing and jostling for the people attending with us. Finally, after nearly four hours of waiting, he finally begins his parade. We were pressed right against the barricade and as he drove by, I swear that he looked right at us and waved. Suddenly all of the hassle leading to that seemed worth it I had gotten a papal wave.
Sunday was a little different, I didn’t even try and get a spot for the parade because I wanted to be sure I had a good view of the jumbotron so I could watch the mass.
This mass was unlike any other I’ve ever been to. First of all, there were nearly 1 million people in attendance – by far the largest I’ve ever been to.
The real big difference, however, was the contents of the mass. Nearly all of the prayers and mass parts were sung in Latin and even though I really didn’t understand what they were saying, it was very unifying. No matter where people were from or what language they spoke, we were all praying the same thing together.
When I first heard that the Pope was coming to Philadelphia I thought, ‘This is probably going to be my only chance to see the Pope.” I never thought that I would get a chance to go, much less see him up close.
This truly was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity and it definitely lived up to and exceeded any and all expectations I had.