By Tanya Connor And William T. Clew
Just a glimpse of Pope Francis made it all worth it.
That’s what some Worcester Diocesan pilgrims said of their sometimes grueling, at times boring, pilgrimage to Philadelphia last weekend.
But they didn’t stop at the Holy Father; they rejoiced in the Lord and the faith he represents.
Four buses of them traveled together Friday afternoon, returning Sunday night. They stayed at the same camp, along with pilgrims from elsewhere, but went through Philadelphia in different groups during the daytime Saturday and Sunday.
(WHDH covers NEWorcester’s exit from Worcester to see pope)
IMMACULATE CONCEPTION PARISHIONERS
Back on the bus Sunday night, Chloe Shugrue, a 17-year-old altar server at Immaculate Conception Parish in Worcester, said she was a changed person.
“Because I got the Eucharist.”
Doesn’t she do that each Sunday?
“But the pope blessed this one. I cried.”
And she hadn’t even been sure she wanted to come on this trip; she had a soccer game! She rejoiced that the game ended up being postponed. But not before she decided to come.
“You cannot be sad when you’re looking at that beautiful man,” Christopher Nelson, another 17-year-old from Immaculate Conception, said of seeing Pope Francis. “His smile is heart-warming.”
“It brought us to tears,” said Maria Hickey, an adult leader. She said three of the youth in their group have grandparents active in the parish, and rejoiced that “this event has really instilled the faith” in the grandchildren.
Mary Sycks, administrator of religious education, expressed gratitude that the trip was made possible by the financial and prayerful support of their pastor, Father Walter Riley, and the parishioners.
Her husband, Stephen, said eight people from the parish went. Sunday they went as far as they could toward the papal Mass, until they were told to stop. They ended up at the Cathedral Basilica of SS. Peter and Paul. They weren’t at the place where Pope Francis got out of the popemobile; they saw it on a large screen. But he circled the church and came within five feet of them.
ANNA MARIA COLLEGE GROUP
“I had seen him in Rome at a very far distance,” said Emma Gallagher, who was also near the cathedral for Sunday’s Mass. The Anna Maria College assistant to the campus minister and community outreach coordinator said seeing him this time had more impact: he was closer and people came specifically to see him, not because they were in Rome anyway.
When he came by Saturday outside Independence Hall, everyone leaned forward, “not pushing but full of excitement and energy, like something just pulled them from within,” she said.
On Sunday people reached out again – this time for the Eucharist. They didn’t know they’d be able to receive communion, as they hadn’t gone through security checkpoints to get into a special area. She choked up with emotion as she recounted how the Eucharist was brought to them anyway.
“We all walked over to the fence and put our hands out,” as if $100 bills were being distributed, she said. People wanted to be nourished. She said it was very powerful, an unexpected gift, to be at Mass with the Holy Father and “to receive Christ as you’re looking at the vicar of Christ” on a large screen.
Edwyn Edwards, assistant football coach at Anna Maria who received his master’s in pastoral ministry there, said the pilgrimage was “unbelievable, a re-energizing of the faith, a refocusing of the faith.” While people came to see the pope, “the real reason we’re all here is for Jesus and our faith,” he said.
Pope Francis lives the Gospel message and calls others to, he said, noting that the pope kisses babies and takes care of the homeless.
Asked how he plans to respond to the papal visit, he said the pope said not to take what you have for granted and he’ll try not to take his faith for granted.
ST JOAN OF ARC
“It was awesome just to see how many people have faith,” said John Rodriguez, of St. Joan of Arc Parish in Worcester. “And they’re all there for one person. They must have a lot of faith in God, because he is our representative of God on earth. And it shows how the Catholic Church is still alive. I think the pope has talked about all religions and unites all religions.”
Magdalena Soto, St. Joan of Arc secretary, said she didn’t get to see Pope Francis when she went to Rome for the canonization of Popes John XXIII and John Paul II. There she was afraid, as people were pushing, but here people were so respectful, she said. And Pope Francis passed her twice in his popemobile Saturday.
“This time it was real – face to face,” she said. “Thousands of people, but you feel like he is looking at you.” She said there were so many Catholics, singing and crying.
“I feel more proud of my religion,” she said. “This is the real stuff.”
She said she posted photos and videos she took on Facebook and people thanked her and said she made them cry and feel the Holy Spirit.
Sister Ines Almeida, a Sister of St. Anne who is a pastoral associate at St. Joan of Arc, said that when Pope Francis passed by in the popemobile Saturday, a woman held on to her, and said that she felt like she was going to fall backwards. When the pope passed by again, Sister Ines saw her reaction. The woman attributed this to Holy Spirit coming from the pope and touching her.
It was very powerful to see and meet with people on the street who were crying, excited, praying and silent, Sister Ines said.
“You could feel the presence of God in the middle of the crowd,” she said. “It was really a spiritual experience.”
Sister Francisca Candelaria, also a pastoral associate at St. Joan of Arc and a member of the Sisters Oblates of Divine Love, said she was surprised by people’s faith.
“I love this message,” she added, speaking of the pope talking of hope and having a better heart, especially for those who are more needy.
OUR LADY OF GOOD COUNSEL
Kim Fitzpatrick also talked about part of the pope’s Gospel message. She and her daughter Shae, 14, were among eight people on the pilgrimage from Our Lady of Good Counsel Parish in West Boylston.
“It was amazing to be part of it,” the mother said, adding that they watched on the screen when Pope Francis was at Independence Mall. “It was almost like he had the whole city praying the Our Father.”
She said that that weekend he wanted people to reach out to their neighbor, the person next to them.
“My hope and prayer is people will – keep this message in their hearts,” she said.
“It was just fun,” added Shae. “This weekend the whole town was Catholic. That’s what it seemed.”
Speaking of the pope, she said, “He’s got a cute little wave and smile. Through all the walking and hurting it was all worth it.” (They’d seen him in the popemobile Saturday, and on the screen on Sunday.)
“That’s the message of the Gospel,” chimed in her mom. “You’ve got to get out there, whether you like it or not. Not that you don’t like it. (But) it comes with suffering too.”
ST. MARY OF THE HILLS
Youth told about “getting out there” in responding to people who could have caused them suffering.
“When we were lining up to go into the Mass, there were people protesting the Catholic faith,” said Marissa Tomasuolo, a St. Peter-Marian Central Catholic High School student from St. Mary of the Hills Parish in Boylston. “We came together and did cheers and songs and stood together as one.”
“The protesters were trying to take something away from our pilgrimage,” said Maggie Taintor, a 14-year-old from St. Mary of the Hills. “I feel like in their hearts they knew they weren’t going to go anywhere because, if we’re going to go on a pilgrimage, clearly we’re not worshipping the pope. We’re worshipping God. In a way, what they were doing – it brought us together. It was making us stronger.”
Suzanne Martiska, another 14-year-old from St. Mary of the Hills, said they heard on Saturday that Pope Francis would pass by, and they wanted to wait for him.
“Once he came by, it was totally worth it,” she said. “You forgot that you were there for seven hours.”
“This experience was really eye-opening for me,” said Deirdre Gallo, a St. Peter-Marian student from St. Mary of the Hills. “I’ve never seen so many Catholics in one area. It’s completely different – so many ethnicities.”
Check out more local postings/photos on www.facebook.com/woopope
“I’m still trying to process everything,” Patrick Seed, of St. Mary Parish in Shrewsbury, said Thursday. A 2015 graduate of The Catholic University of America, he attended Pope Francis’ Mass at his alma mater Wednesday.
“It was an incredible experience,” he told The Catholic Free Press in a telephone interview after returning home. “It was very powerful, especially during the Mass, with all these different languages being incorporated. … It kind of spoke to how being a Catholic is such a universal experience. It doesn’t belong to just one group of people.
“It was incredible – all those people there being able to join the pope and share their faith with him. … I’m incredibly grateful that I had the
opportunity to attend the Mass,” surrounded by people who had the same gratitude and joy.
He said he brings back with him the pope’s “general message of compassion and love and being inclusive” and plans to continue to try to incorporate that into his life.
He rejoiced that he got to see the Holy Father, even though he didn’t get too close to him. His mother got much closer.
“I stood outside waiting for him,” Sheila Seed said of being on the pope’s route. “It was very exciting because I wasn’t expecting him to be that close. I thought he’d be in the middle of the road, but he was closer to the sidewalk.”
In that spot people could line up only on one side of the street because of construction, she said.
She said she watched the Mass on Jumbotrons, and some of the gathering at St. Matthew’s.
“Everybody was just so excited to be there, excited that he was there,” she said.
What did she bring back from the pope’s messages?
“Just be kind to each other.”
After watching Pope Francis’ address to Congress in the Chancery Library Thursday, a couple Worcester Diocesan employees shared impressions from his visit.
“I loved his phrase, ‘implementing a culture of care, restoring dignity to human beings and protecting nature,’” said Eileen Charbonneau, administrative assistant and ecclesiastical notary in the Judicial Vicar’s Office. She said she thinks those are linked, and got the impression the pope does too.
“This is the first time I heard him speak, except in sound bites,” she said. “He’s soft-spoken, gentle, but he makes his point.” It’s as if he’s saying, “I’m not yelling at you. I care about you. So I want to share with you what I think will help you, in a way that respects you even if I don’t agree with you.”
“I think that’s why he’s so effective,” she said. “Maybe the people who don’t like him have only heard sound bites, but haven’t really heard him.”
“A lot of times … Catholics are looked down on,” said Julie Schroeder, administrative assistant in the Office of the Vicar General. But the papal visit “makes you really proud to be Catholic,” she said.
“The president’s speech, it was really incredible,” she said of President Barack Obama’s welcome to Pope Francis, “He said a lot of beautiful things about the Catholic Church. If he really lived and believed the things that he said … he would lead this country into a better place, a more hopeful place.
“And the same with Congress. The reactions they had to the things the pope said, regarding the family especially, and the dignity of life. and seeing the faces of people, not just numbers. If they lived and they voted as they represented themselves, our country would be … headed in the right direction.” This would give citizens confidence and hope that their country was being led well, she said.
“These are my thoughts,” she concluded. “I’m Catholic! This is awesome!”
HOLY CROSS WATCHES THE POPE
Students, faculty, administrators and staff at the College of the Holy Cross began to file into the Rehm Library when the doors opened at 8:30 a.m. Thursday. A large television screen hung at one end of the room. It was tuned to EWTN, which carried the pope’s address with captions.
By 9 a.m. most of the chairs were full, except for the first two rows, drawing the comment “just like church” from one observer.
Marybeth K Barrett, director of the chaplain’s office at Holy Cross, made opening remarks as people continued to enter the compact area. By the time the pope began to speak all the seats, even in the front rows, were full and there were standees along the back wall and several people, most of them students, seated in the middle aisle.
Just before the pope entered the House chambers, Father John Savard, rector of the Jesuit community at Holy Cross, got a laugh when he picked up a full-sized cardboard cutout of the pope, held it in front of his face and shoulders and began waving to the audience.
During the pope’s address the Rehm Library was silent. Near the end of his talk several students left to attend an 11 a.m. class, but most stayed until the end and applauded when the pope ended his talk
Brooke Tranten, a junior from Brunswick, Maine, who was not able to hear all of the pope’s address to Congress because she was in class for part of it, said that what struck her was his defense of the family.
“Francis wasn’t interested in making a political statement,” she said.
He talked about the natural family family, mother, father and children, and how the family is under attack by western culture, she said.
“It’s a proud day to be a student at a Jesuit institution,” said Brian Senier of Melrose. Pope Francis is a Jesuit and Holy Cross is a Jesuit institution.
“Beyond that, as someone who is politically inclined, it was nice to see a sense of unity that often eludes American politics,” he said.
Kate Spitler, a sophomore from Marshfield, said she felt the pope “really connected with people of faith.”
– To see photos and videos posted by local people who attended parts of the papal visit in Philadelphia, New York or Washington, D.C., visit and Like our page: www.Facebook.com/woopope. From your Twitter account you can also find local Tweets by searching for #woopope. (If you were there and you didn’t get a chance to post your pictures, there is still time to do so. Encourage your friends to look at the papal excitement online.)