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Archdiocese pilgrims experience a ‘day of blessings’ in Philadelphia

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“It really was a once in a lifetime opportunity and such a special way to celebrate my birthday,” Angel Waits said. “It’s hard to put into words how much it meant to me.”  COURTESY PHOTO
“It really was a once in a lifetime opportunity and such a special way to celebrate my birthday,” Angel Waits said. “It’s hard to put into words how much it meant to me.”

By Eileen Connelly, OSU

As the sun rose on Philadelphia Sept. 27, dozens of pilgrims from the Archdiocese of Cincinnati arrived on several buses that departed from the Pilarczyk Center in Dayton the night before for the trip of a lifetime — to catch a glimpse of Pope Francis and take part in the Papal Mass that brought the 2015 World Meeting of Families to a close. Their trip was sponsored by the archdiocesan Family and Respect Life Office.

For Cynthia Hummer and her friend, Renate Alui, the journey began at Corpus Christi Parish in New Burlington, where travelers boarded two smaller vans to Dayton. The women were excited as they departed the parking lot after a blessing by Franciscan Father Jeff Scheeler, who had just celebrated the Saturday evening Mass.

“This trip is a retirement gift from my children,” explained Hummer, a member of Our Lady of Victory Parish.

The buses traveled through the night to “the city of brotherly love,” leaving the pilgrims exhausted, but excited about the day’s events. Among them was a group from parishes in Brown County, all wearing brightly colored T-shirts that read, “Vivas Papa Francis.” It was an extra special occasion for Angel Waits, who was celebrating her 18th birthday on the same day she would be seeing Pope Francis. Waits made the trip with her mother Sue, music minister at St. Mary Parish in Arnheim and St. George Parish in Georgetown.

“It was a day full of blessings, made even more special because Angel and I could experience it together,” Sue Waits said.

Joining throngs of other pilgrims, the travelers, representing parishes from throughout the archdiocese, made their way through the crowded streets of Philadelphia and security checkpoints before securing vantage points along Ben Franklin Parkway where they eagerly awaited the Holy Father’s arrival. While they waited, the pilgrims prayed, laughed, chatted and shopped for souvenirs, including rosaries and other commemorative items. Jumbotrons throughout the city enabled them to keep track of the pope’s every move.

When Pope Francis appeared in the “Popemobile,” he was greeted with cheers and shouts of excitement as he smiled and waved to the faithful crowd. The atmosphere became one of prayer and reverence as the 4 p.m. Mass began. The diverse crowd of pilgrims, representing various nationalities and age groups, joined together in worship, led by their beloved pontiff, who spoke of the importance of family and treating one another with kindness during his homily. At Communion, they sang together the familiar words of “You Satisfy a Hungry Heart” and “Taste and See.”

At the closing of the Mass, Pope Francis announced that the next World Meeting of Families would be held in 2018 in Dublin, Ireland, prompting responses from many of the pilgrims of their plans to attend.

Reflecting on the experience after returning to Cincinnati, Hummer said, “I’m so grateful to have been there, to see our Holy Father, to feel the presence of the Holy Spirit. It was incredible just to be around Pope Francis’ goodness.”

Posted September 30, 2015

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