The Apostolic Journey of Pope Francis to the United States from Sept. 22–27 moved many Americans as they watched this humble man reach out to all with genuine affection and love. BVMs were privileged to be among the crowds in Washington, D.C., and Philadelphia during his five-day schedule.
“I found the trip to Washington, D.C., to see Pope Francis a very powerful experience,” says Novice Director Lou Anglin, BVM who was accompanied by novice Sharon Rezmer and BVM President Teri Hadro. “Although it didn’t go quite as planned (due to extremely tight security) it was amazing to be with people from all over the world drawn to his message of love and mercy,” Lou shares. “It’s seems obvious that he walks the talk. He just doesn’t talk about being merciful, he shows mercy. I have hope that his message, which is the message of the Gospels, will extend to all.”
‘Waiting with the Faithful’
Sharon offers a delightful take on the experience. “Naturally, I was filled with anticipation and excitement at the prospect of seeing the Holy Father, maybe even shaking his hand or speaking with him,” Sharon says. “The theme for the pope’s visit was, ‘Share the Joy, Walk with Francis’ and I would be there to walk with him!”
Lou and Sharon arrived at the grounds of the Basilica of the National Shine of the Immaculate Conception and began a five-hour wait under the beating sun without access to water or food and with insufficient porta-potties, which ran out of toilet paper and soap.
“The saving grace was that we met some interesting people while we were there,” Sharon says. “Among them were a 70-year-old Cistercian novice (who beat me in age); an African American single mother who taught high school math and who personally rescued two trafficked female students; a compassionate Filipino couple who offered us water and an unappealing snack cake—which after a few hours seemed like a gourmet treat; an enthusiastic group of Hispanic people who entertained us with song; religious and priests, some wearing brightly colored habits or cassocks; lay people of all nationalities; and sisters and novices who Lou and I knew from South Bend and Sinsinawa, among many others.”
Sharon adds, “Our one and only glimpse of Pope Francis was when he was riding past in his popemobile with his back towards us . . . I may not have walked with Francis but I certainly waited with his amazingly diverse church!”
“I went to the Junipero Serra canonization Mass on the campus of Catholic University in Washington, D.C.,” Teri shares. “The experience of being one of more than 25,000 attendees at the Mass was memorable . . . the people gathered were remarkable for their good humor, patience, and willingness to step aside as others moved in front of them. The demeanor of the crowd paid tribute to the man we’d come to see. My experience at the Serra Mass suggests the pope’s message is finding fertile soil in the hearts of many who came to see him during his U.S. visit.”
Teri also viewed the Pope’s talk to the staff of the United Nations. “He told them that their work was as important as that of U.N. dignitaries and asked them to care for one another, to be just, and to be peace.”
Pope Francis: Building Bridges
BVM Marge Clark shares her own Washington, D.C. experience: “I was at the White House, the Mass at the Basilica and at the Capitol . . . far out on the lawn. The most impressive part for me was the address to Congress, where Pope Francis walked deeply into so many of the issues on which there are vicious divides among both House and Senate members. He dove deep in only a brief paragraph or two on each. But the point was clear. And he ended with, ‘It is my duty to build bridges and to help all men and women, in any way possible, to do the same.’”
Marge adds, “It was a terrific thrill to be in the presence of Pope Francis—particularly at the Mass at the Basilica, where I was in the fourth row of women religious . . . I was able to see his face clearly and closely!”
“I was on the west lawn of the Capitol with thousands of people, listening to the message he extended to Congress,” says Kathy Kandefer, BVM. “It was a good experience. His presence created excitement and hope. The message that was continually gleaned from his words was that of mercy and compassion. We need to care for the poor and not judge those around us who may think differently.”
BVMs Joanie Nuchols and Joan Fitzgerald (John Raymond) were also present at Pope Francis’ address to the Joint Session of Congress. “As a teacher of American history, this was a special event made even more so by Pope Francis’s knowledge and use of four great Americans in his speech. I was moved to tears," Joanie shares.
"Being seated in the gallery, as our American leaders, whom we see so often in the news media, were processing in person was a thrill overshadowed only by the moment of pride when Francis from the Holy See was announced. The sincerity of his presentation was most respectfully and enthusiastically received,” Joan says.
Together, the two of them felt that “The entire Washington experience was one of unity, joy and fellowship—from the cab drivers, to people on the street, to all the security personnel, and to the many world visitors who came to see Pope Francis and witness his gentle love and appreciation for each person he touched. We carted 1,500 Pope Francis medals through airport security and metal detectors at the capitol—to the amusement of the guards and the people around us. We brought these back to all the Xavier students, faculty and staff who have been so appreciative.”
Marguerite Murphy, BVM (John) was at Independence Hall, Philadelphia, with Associate Clara Schwartz, to see Pope Francis. “What a privilege to hear Pope Francis encourage us to respect religious freedom and immigration and to act responsibly—while sitting in this historic setting of not only America’s declaration of becoming a nation, but also Mary Frances Clarke’s commencement of the Sisters of Charity, BVM—just a few blocks away,” shares Marguerite.
Earlier this year on July 7, BVM Mary Miguel Conway was “blessed to have experienced the Papal Mass in Quito” during Francis’ trip to Ecuador.
“The expression of faith and the feeling of the presence of Christ in the man who is our pope is enough to bring tears to one's eyes,” Miguel says. “What an experience! In the name of Jesus we were greeted and attended to as if each of us was a special guest. For me, this was an historic day, to be in the presence of someone who is so simple and so attractive for the kingdom. I will not forget it.”