By Tanya Connor
Patrick Seed had already planned to return to The Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C., from which he graduated last spring.
“It’s the pope,” the member of St. Mary Parish in Shrewsbury said, explaining his reason for visiting his alma mater at this time. How often do you get to see the Pope in America?
He may see the Holy Father closer than he anticipated. He said that last week he was given a ticket to the Sept. 23 papal Mass at Catholic University after the alumnus whose name was pulled in a drawing couldn’t attend. At that Mass, which Bishop McManus is to concelebrate with other bishops, Pope Francis is to canonize Junipero Serra.
“His mother thinks he should give her the ticket – she paid the tuition,” said fellow parishioner Marilyn Blanchard.
“Unfortunately, the tickets are non-transferable,” Mr. Seed said. His mother is flying there with him anyhow.
What is he hoping for?
“I just want to be there and experience what it’s actually like,” he replied. “How many times can you be there when someone is becoming a saint?”
Denise Vose is also excited about the Pope’s visit to America. She and her husband, Robert, plan to talk about Pope Francis and give out cutouts of him this Sunday to their fourth-grade religious education class at St. Theresa Parish in Blackstone.
The students are being asked to display the cutout at home “so they can pray for the Pope while he’s here,” Mrs. Vose said. “That way they won’t forget – because their teachers are going to be there.”
She and her husband are in a group of about 35 people from the Worcester Diocese heading to Philadelphia for the Pope’s visit. Allison LeDoux, director of the diocesan Office of Marriage and Family, is helping coordinate that trip through Canterbury Pilgrimages and Tours.
The group is to meet Thursday for dinner with Bishop McManus, visit shrines and do sightseeing Friday. All are to participate in the World Meeting of Families’ Festival of Families, with the papal audience, Saturday, and the Mass for the conclusion of the World Meeting of Families Sunday with Pope Francis.
Mrs. LeDoux and her husband, Deacon John LeDoux, are driving to Philadelphia ahead of the Pope to attend the World Meeting of Families congress Tuesday through Friday. Also going to the congress are two other couples from the Worcester Diocese, one of them Deacon Brian and Nissa Gadbois, she said.
Another larger group from the Worcester Diocese is being coordinated by Elizabeth Cotrupi, director of the youth ministry office – New Evangelization Worcester for Youth & Young Adults. Mrs. Cotrupi said that among the nearly 190 pilgrims are five priests and groups from several parishes, Anna Maria College, and St. John’s and Holy Name Central Catholic high schools. They leave Friday and are to attend the weekend events that include the festival and papal Mass.
To keep people on pilgrimage connected with those at home, the Worcester Diocese has set up a Facebook page (facebook.com/woopope) and a Twitter hashtag (#woopope).
People on the scene can Tweet using #woopope and can post photos and videos directly to www.facebook.com/woopope.
Those at home can follow the local action on their Twitter feed and by checking “Like” on the Facebook page.
Claire Schaeffer-Duffy, of the SS. Francis and Therese Catholic Worker House in Worcester, said she’s going to St. Patrick Parish in Washington, D.C., which Pope Francis is to visit.
“That’s the church where Scott and I were married,” she said. “I don’t have a ticket or a pass to get in, so I’m going to adulate from afar. It’ll probably be that. … There’s no telling what the Pope will do.”
She said her husband’s coaching responsibilities prevent him from coming, but she’s traveling with Jerry and M.J. Park, founders of Little Friends for Peace, who are coming to Worcester Tuesday to offer peace training at the Center for Non-Violent Solutions.
“We are doing our bit for peace on Tuesday and then we’re rushing down to take more inspiration from the Pope,” she said.
An eighth-grader at St. Bernadette Elementary School in Northborough is going with her parents to see Pope Francis in Philadelphia and is to report on the visit to fellow students, said Andrea Tavaska, assistant director of mission and Catholic Identity at the school.
The school is also planning to live stream parts of the Pope’s visit for students, she said. She said teachers were given suggestions of ways to incorporate aspects of his visit into their subjects, and older students were to learn about and pray part of the Liturgy of the Hours in preparation for his midday prayer with the bishops.
Josie Citta, principal of Trinity Catholic Academy in Southbridge, said she ordered prayer cards for the papal visit. She plans to give them to students, faculty and staff Sept. 23 and have them pray it together, she said.
The papacy is a usual topic in Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults instructions at St. Paul Cathedral, said Deacon Franklin B. Lizardo, who serves there. But Pope Francis is a special focus now, he said, adding, “He’s always in the news; he’s running his papacy in a different way.”
Marilyn Blanchard, a member of the pastoral council and liturgy committee at St. Mary Parish in Shrewsbury was working this week on a church lawn sign to welcome Pope Francis.
She said the parish is also to have a discussion about the talks the pope gives in the United States. The discussion, facilitated by Jesuit Father Thomas Worcester, from the history department at the College of the Holy Cross, is to begin at 7 p.m. Oct. 7 in the gathering room attached to the church.