By Tanya Connor
Two new Worcester diocesan priests concelebrated Masses with Pope Francis during his visit to the United States. Father Mateus Souza had the privledge Sept. 23 in Washington. D.C., and Sept. 27 in Philadelphia. Father Juan D. Escudero received the gift in Washington.
Father Mateus Souza said he was going to go just to Philadelphia, because he could register online; he didn’t find a way to do that for Washington But he sent an e-mail, and was informed he would receive a ticket for the Sept. 23 Mass in the mail.
In Washington, priests’ seating was first-come, first-served, so he arrived at 7 a.m., although the “doors” didn’t open until 10 a.m., he said.
At one point he was in a line that didn’t lead to the right place, but eventually got to the vesting area, then the Mass site.
“I was the third priest to get in,” he said, adding that he was right in front of the altar, very close to the pope.
“Nobody wanted to leave their spot,” despite having to wait in the sun for an afternoon Mass, he said.
“It was nice; we got to know a lot of priests” from the United States, South America and Canada, he said. “They had nice music playing,” the choir was rehearsing and the priests could watch the pope on a screen before he came for Mass.
“I was glad that I knew Spanish, because his homily was in Spanish” – without translations on the screen, Father Souza said. He said it was nice to concelebrate with the pope.
Father Souza said he spent the next day with friends in Baltimore, then went to Philadelphia, where he had tickets for Saturday’s Festival of Families and Sunday’s papal Mass. He said he was really close to the stage both days and that it was a “once in a lifetime experience.”
Father Juan D. Escudero, associate pastor of St. Mary Parish in Shrewsbury, said the greatest gift for his June 2015 ordination would be to concelebrate Mass with the pope.
That’s what he told the Chancery in Washington, D.C., when seeking access to Pope Francis’ Sept. 23 Mass there, he said.
He wasn’t hearing back after applying online, he said. Discouraged, he told Patrick Seed, a St. Mary’s parishioner who had a ticket to the Sept. 23 Mass, to take lots of photos and share them with him. After that, Father Escudero said, he got the e-mail confirmation.
“I felt like the Lord heard my prayers … even when I was losing hope,” he said.
“I couldn’t hold my tears at the moment of the consecration, because I knew I was repeating the words said at the Last Supper,” he said. “I was repeating those words with the pope, who is Peter. I’ve been very, very blessed.
“After the Mass … I kissed the altar and I kissed the relics of Junipero Serra.” And went to the pope’s chair – but didn’t sit in it.
“I think the pope is a prophet among us,” Father Escudero said. “He knows that he’s not the main character in the picture. He knows that his message is about Jesus. And, being a prophet, he has the power to unite people. … He makes Christ alive among the people. When I saw people of all ages holding hands … sharing sunscreen with strangers … I could see Christ alive in the crowd. … A lot of … people who couldn’t even understand Spanish were full of joy because the pope was there.”
On Sunday Father Souza arrived at the stage for the papal Mass about 8 a.m., and learned concelebrants had to go to the art museum, which was quite a walk, he said. There there was a “wonderful lunch” for them. They vested and processed to the Mass.
“I got to know a lot of bishops and priests from all over,” he said. “I had a great time.”
What did he bring away with him?
“I was impressed with the reaction of the people to the pope, how he can move people, whether you’re a Catholic or a non-Catholic,” he replied. “For those that don’t believe, I think they can see something different in the pope. For us who believe, we know it’s Jesus working in him. That’s what I bring for my ministry. I wish people could see Jesus in me as they see in him.”
Father Souza said everybody was happy, whether they were sitting near the stage or in the back watching on a screen, whether or not they got to see the pope. Members of the media were happy, and said they were gald they were reared Catholic, he said.
He said it was a great experience that nobody is going to forget.
– 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.)