October 2, 2015

Pope helps archdiocesan pilgrims grow in love of the family

Sebastian, left, Ella, Angie and Benjamin Moster, members of St. Louis Parish in Batesville, kneel in prayer on Sept. 27 beside the Benjamin Franklin Parkway in Philadelphia during the closing Mass of the eighth World of Meeting of Families, attended by nearly 1 million worshippers. The Mosters participated in an archdiocesan pilgrimage to Philadelphia for the meeting. (Photo by Sean Gallagher)

Sebastian, left, Ella, Angie and Benjamin Moster, members of St. Louis Parish in Batesville, kneel in prayer on Sept. 27 beside the Benjamin Franklin Parkway in Philadelphia during the closing Mass of the eighth World of Meeting of Families, attended by nearly 1 million worshippers. The Mosters participated in an archdiocesan pilgrimage to Philadelphia for the meeting. (Photo by Sean Gallagher)

By Sean Gallagher

PHILADELPHIA—Worshipping with Pope Francis at the closing Mass of the eighth World Meeting of Families on Sept. 27 on the Benjamin Franklin Parkway in Philadelphia was what the 46 pilgrims from across central and southern Indiana had anticipated from the start of their weeklong pilgrimage.

A small group of pilgrims were so determined to get as close to the sanctuary as they could that they woke up at 4:30 a.m.—nearly 12 hours before the start of the Mass—and arrived at a security checkpoint when it opened at 6 a.m.

They soon found a place on the parkway that was just hundreds of feet from the stage with a clear view of it.

“We could see both the altar and the pope’s chair from our location,” said Julie Bauman, who arrived early with her husband Doug. “That was the number one priority.”

The husband and wife, who are members of St. Barnabas Parish and teachers at its school, showed their love for Pope Francis in a fun and unusual way. Before the Mass, they wore homemade, cardboard miters with these messages written across them, “We’ve Got Francis Fever,” and “Francis Fan Club.”

“We’re known as like the goofy parents,” said Doug. “And that doesn’t just come from our kids, but also our students and other families at St. Barnabas. So we were just looking for something fun, creative and within budget.”

As it happened, the place where they were standing was close to booths where TV networks were covering the day’s events and other members of the media arrived on buses.

Little by little, reporters were drawn to the Baumans, at first from local Philadelphia TV stations, then national and international networks and newspapers, including the New York Times and members of Catholic media outlets.

“It was totally undeserved,” Julie said. “We were having a blast. It was a great time filler. It just felt like the time flew by.”

“Some of the most sincere [interviews] we had were with Catholic news agencies,” Doug said. “They did a great job.”

As one interview followed another, the Baumans, along with archdiocesan pilgrims Alex Bushkoetter and Annie Harton, young adult Catholics who also drew the attention of members of the media, spoke with each other about how they could use the opportunity to evangelize.

“We totally tried to do a little name dropping each time,” Julie said, “mentioning we were with the Archdiocese of Indianapolis and that we were Catholic school teachers, trying to promote in the little snippets that we had.”

“We really enjoyed the opportunity to interact with the media at our age because we are younger and vibrant,” said Harton, a member of St. Pius X Parish in Indianapolis. “We’re able to remind everyone that it’s not just about the pope. It’s about the Church, the Mass and the Eucharist. So we had a lot of fun trying to figure out how we can evangelize and remind people of what’s really important.”

Other pilgrims made their way to the area at different times and found places far and near along the parkway.

Pope Francis arrived around 3 p.m., and greeted worshippers along the parkway from a popemobile while several Secret Service agents rode on it and walked beside it, making sure the pontiff was kept safe.

Although archdiocesan pilgrims and the nearly 1 million others gathered for the Mass enthusiastically greeted the pope as he drove by, their attention was focused on the Mass when it began at 4 p.m.

During his homily, Pope Francis reminded his many listeners that holiness grows in the home when family members show their love for each other in “homely gestures” of kindness.

“They are the quiet things done by mothers and grandmothers, by fathers and grandfathers, by children, by brothers and sisters,” he said. “They are little signs of tenderness, affection and compassion. Like the warm supper we look forward to at night, the early lunch awaiting someone who gets up early to go to work. Homely gestures.

“Like a blessing before we go to bed, or a hug after we return from a hard day’s work. Love is shown by little things, by attention to small daily signs which make us feel at home. Faith grows when it is lived and shaped by love. That is why our families, our homes, are true domestic Churches. They are the right place for faith to become life, and life to grow in faith.”

Scott Seibert, marriage and family enrichment coordinator for the archdiocesan Office of Pro-Life and Family Life, was grateful that the pope spoke in such a heartfelt way about family life before so many people.

“It’s a voice that the world listens to,” he said. “Who else in the world do [nearly a] million people gather to meet? He is, for our world and our time, a man who is probably the closest living embodiment of Jesus outside of the sacraments that we’ll ever encounter.”

The pope’s message touched the heart of archdiocesan pilgrim DeInda Dellacca, a member of St. Michael Parish in Greenfield. A mother of three children ages 9, 7 and 2, she and her husband David are expecting the birth of their fourth child at the end of November.

“It was uplifting and inspiring,” she said. “It let me know that God and our Church are very supportive of the family. It gave me a renewed feeling that I can always go to our mother as well as Jesus and any of the saints to help me pray.”

DeInda was also moved to see so many people share her love for the pope.

“I was crying,” she said. “I can’t even put it into words. It was just that awe-inspiring. I don’t know if we’ll ever have that moment again.”

The crush of people to get close to Pope Francis when he rode in the popemobile before Mass was matched during Communion as hundreds of thousands of people in the congregation made their way to the barriers to receive the sacrament. Some 500 priests and deacons made their way along the parkway to distribute Communion.

One of them was Deacon Patrick Bower, who was stationed far away from the stage near the Basilica Cathedral of SS. Peter and Paul, at the edge of the congregation, filled with people who did not have tickets for the standing areas closer to the altar.

He saw it as suggestive of the charitable ministry of deacons, who reach out to help people in need on the periphery of society.

“Distributing Communion to the people that didn’t have tickets and were on the fringes was very moving,” Deacon Bower said. “It was crowded as people came to receive Communion, but they did it gently and peaceably. It was a phenomenal experience.”

About a mile away from where Deacon Bower was distributing Communion, Doug and Julie Bauman were receiving the sacrament near the stage.

“It was a flood of emotions,” Doug said. “Tears were everywhere. We received and instinctively knelt down in the dirt.”

As they prayed, other members of the congregation made their way to the barrier to receive Communion.

“There were different languages,” Doug said. “There were young and old. I just felt like we were all in communion together as a universal family.”

Archbishop Vincenzo Paglia, president of the Pontifical Council for the Family, which helped to organize the World Meeting of Families, spoke of God’s universal plan for the family in remarks at the end the Mass, and exhorted all in attendance to make that plan a reality when they returned to their homes around the world.

“God’s dream, from the first moment of creation, has been to make all peoples into one family … ,” Archbishop Paglia said. “We must make our own this dream of God. Yes, God gives us and our families the gift of participating in his dream.”
 

(For more coverage of the archdiocesan pilgrimage to the World Meeting of Families and the papal visit, including photo galleries and links to blog posts, visit www.archindy.org/wmof.)

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