A delegation of 15 from Northeastern University’s Catholic Center traveled to Philadelphia this weekend to see Pope Francis and listen to him speak during his final stop on his three-city U.S. tour. The pope’s visit to the City of Brotherly Love coincided with the World Meeting of Families, a gathering of Catholic groups from around the world.
The students participated in the Festival of Families on Saturday night, when Pope Francis addressed the importance of families, and then attended the papal mass on Sunday afternoon.
We asked some of the students to describe this rare opportunity.
What was this experience like?
Kathryn Aragon, S’19: This experience was absolutely amazing and definitely once-in-a-lifetime. Seeing the millions of people—no matter their religious denomination—united in the same sense of ecstatic joy over the leader of the Roman Catholic Church is an experience that is hard to put into words. You looked around and saw not only people as far as the eye can see, but people unified in prayer, in thanksgiving to God, and just in an honest love of each other.
It’s almost laughable how much I was reminded of videos of teenage girls screaming over their favorite musicians; millions of people were screaming at the top of their lungs cheering for His Holiness as he passed by.
How would you describe the city’s atmosphere?
Christina Policastro, BHS’16: There was an aura of excitement and expectant energy as we walked around the city. People were always willing to make conversation. Though the crowds were massive, no one was ever angry or frustrated. Bumping into anyone elicited a string of “sorry” from every direction. And watching the papal mass as everyone recited well-known prayers was an incredible sight to witness.
What did you take away from the weekend?
Oliver Kwai Ben, SSH/DMSB’18: This was my first time doing or seeing anything like this. Honestly, it still hasn’t sunk in what a once-in-a-lifetime experience it was, but I come out of it with a sense of pride for my Catholic faith and for all those that I got to share the weekend with.
Pope Francis’ exhortation to all of us to dialogue peacefully with those whom you don’t agree with, love those who are seemingly unlovable, and to take care of children and grandparents were some of the things that stuck out to me. I will always remember the love and laughter that surrounded me all weekend as well as the great responsibility Pope Francis reminded us that we have to bring peace everywhere we go.