Sunday morning was bustling with activity that I’ve never seen before in Philly. I was thrilled to see so many pilgrims walking eagerly toward the Ben Franklin Parkway! I made my way through the crowds to a morning interview on CBS3. From the time I walked through the door to the completion of the interview, I was there for about 5 minutes. Pat Ciarrocchi and Jim Donovan were incredibly kind, relaxed, and collected. They prepped me right before the interview, which went great! (watch it here). After a quick selfie and goodbyes, I was off to the next adventure.
As everyone excitedly prepared for the Sunday Mass, I got to spend time with a gathering of hundreds of bishops, monsignors, and priests, in what I affectionately called the “safest room in the world” below the public galleries of the Philadelphia Museum of Art. We were about to witness the final keystone event of the Papal visit, and the vast numbers of pilgrims spoke to the significance of the service. (On my way out, I even ran into a past couple of ours, Cara and Chris –Hi guys!). As the festivities came to a close, I couldn’t help but feel completely blessed by the whole experience. The city was overflowing with anticipation, but unlike a Superbowl or Beyoncé concert, this was much more than an entertainment event. Although the city of Philadelphia brought in Jim Gaffigan and Aretha Franklin to perform, and prepared their hotels and restaurants for a huge influx of tourism, the mood of the crowds was unexpectedly uninterested unless the Holy Father was in view. Photographers Gustavo Garcia and Dave Christenson commented on their experience shooting in the midst of the crowds, with particular emphasis on the spiritual overtone of the masses. One of the biggest surprises that they (and no doubt, Philadelphia) faced was the disinterest that the visitors had with partaking in the usual tourist attractions. “People were sleeping right on the Ben Franklin Parkway… children and whole families” remarked Garcia, in reference to the pilgrim’s determination to be in the presence of the Pope, despite the expensive and scarce sleeping accommodations.
As we all reflect on the past weekend, we dwell on the feelings of gratitude, kindness, and spirituality that emanated throughout the city. People were kind to each other, we didn’t hear horrible stories of inappropriate behavior, and we witnessed the people’s overwhelming admiration for the Holy Father. Even those who were on the opposite side of City Hall while he spoke, were completely enthralled, and did not hesitate to bow in prayer as if they were right in front of Pope Francis. As our office discussed the experience, Stacey, our office manager, said “I did not expect to be moved the way I was moved by that man… it changed my whole family.” I’m sure many of us had similar revelations, and we feel remarkably grateful to have been so close to the heart of the event.
It truly is the little, personal moments that define a monumental event like this one, and it would not have been possible if it weren’t for the persistent efforts from the city and government officials, including Governor Tom Wolf and Mayor Michael Nutter, the Philadelphia Archdiocese, the World Meeting of Families staff, the Pennsylvania Convention Center staff, and our wonderful city of brotherly love and sisterly affection. Please continue to reminisce with us as we share some of our favorite images from the World Meeting of Families and the Papal Visit.
Best, Joe G.