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The Student News Site of Gannon University since 1947


The Student News Site of Gannon University since 1947


Editor joins the masses for historic papal visit


I spent the weekend in Philadelphia.  And no, I wasn’t there to chomp on cheesesteaks and see the Liberty Bell.  Pope Francis was in town and I made a modern pilgrimage with six other Gannon University students to go see him.

During the eight-hour car ride to the eastern side of the state, somebody started saying the rosary and we rotated leaders for each decade.

It was stark outside but our voices carried over the rows of seats as we watched the headlights of cars in front of us.  As I counted Hail Marys on my fingers, I stopped worrying about the agenda for the weekend and making a good impression on the group.  I have to give these kids credit.

Only three of them know me and the other three were gracious enough to acknowledge the “journalist” on board.  We ended up having a lot of fun.

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We could have ended up miserable for a lot of reasons.  We were running on four hours of sleep and the crowds were unbelievable.  But that’s the thing.

The city had to shut down its major streets so masses of people could gather for a common purpose.  I went to Washington for the “March for Life” in high school and was more intimidated than affected by the crowd.  Philly was different.

Maybe it was because we had more space between us and the crowd.  Maybe it had something to do with the energy among the people.  We weren’t rallying against a cause.  The unity had a much more positive light.

Something clicked and I wanted to get many pictures of so many faces. My dad chastised me after “March for Life” when I didn’t have crowd pictures.  Not only did we get pictures in Philadelphia for an idea of the magnitude of the crowd, we were able to meet some of them.

Nathan Demarest suggested we play cards before the pope’s address and we met two women, Chris and Connie, from Ohio who taught us how to play euchre.  This sight got the attention of a newspaper intern who asked to take our picture.

Since I am usually the one asking the questions, answering them felt silly to me.  On the other side, it was really exciting to see so many journalists and photographers with their steno notebooks out.  We walked past the Fox News building and I squealed a little.

A TV reporter from Erie’s Channel 12 met us at the papal Mass and he said his most exciting story was the one he was working on about the pope’s visit.  He spent the whole week prior in Philadelphia, meeting with families and reporting on things like the Mass’ orchestra rehearsal.

The papal Mass felt like the story of Jesus feeding the multitudes. Everybody was tired and sitting at each other’s elbows outside.  The majority of the prayers were said in Latin, so we all stumbled over them together.

That’s a million people praying in Latin with the pope.  This was no small town parish Mass where the prayers were recited groggily and only the back rows sang the hymns.

Seeing people’s reverence, like the grandfather who laid his suit jacket out for his granddaughter to kneel on, was a reminder for why we were there.

We arrived before 7 a.m. Sunday and watched ungrateful people sit on cases of water as they waited for Francis’ procession.  The grounds were the venue for the Festival of Families the night before and all the green space was tramped to dust.

The waiting before Mass was filled with unsuccessful naps and avoiding the dust bowl.  It seemed like Pig Pen came to Philly and brought his whole family.  There were men with bandanas tied around their faces as if they were about to duel each other for the cleanest Port-a-Potty.

Besides the dust and water squatters, waiting eight hours for Mass was worth it. We boarded our train back to the hotel Sunday night in good spirits.  Anna Swick and Nathan started a 10-minute montage of songs that were received with an encore request from Sean, a Philadelphia native and security guard.

His favorite adjective for his home city was “grimy,” but he said he still loved it, despite the Eagles’ being hard to root for.  Sean added the observation that we were friendly, and he liked that about us.

Seeing the pope from 30 feet away is exciting enough, but meeting people — and people watching — was what made the trip meaningful.


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