The People’s Pope

| February 18, 2016

Pope Francis’ U.S. visit thrills, excites and inspires the faithful

By Pat Shea

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When President of Catholic Schools of Broome County Richard Bucci and his wife won tickets from the Diocese of Syracuse to the Madison Square Garden Mass celebrated by Pope Francis in New York on September 25, 2015, they expected to be excited; but instead they were spellbound.

“The minute you walked into Manhattan, you felt this air of anticipation, of excitement,” stated Bucci. “It permeated the whole city the entire time the pope was there. Being able to come, to visit the city during this time and watch this amazing man celebrate Mass with over 20,000 people was … well, it was awe-inspiring.”

Those in attendance at the Mass, explained Bucci, felt privileged to be in the presence of the pope. “During his homily he spoke about life in a city and how a person can be alone even living in a huge metropolitan area. He spoke how in (New York City) someone can live in a multi-million dollar condo while others at the same time just blocks away are living in squalor. He stated it was a Christian’s obligation to support those on the fringe, to not look through them, but to help those who are suffering,” Bucci explained.

Bucci has adult children who live in the city, and although they did not attend the Mass, they were able to catch a glimpse of the Pope’s motorcade down New York City’s historic 5th Avenue.

“My kids were so excited,” said Bucci. “They knew it was a once in a lifetime moment and getting the chance to see [Pope Francis] was so spontaneous. They were thrilled, even though they saw him only for a moment, but it’s was something they will never forget.”

Bucci commented on how so many people throughout the weekend spoke of the pope’s humility and charismatic personality. “He pulls people to him regardless of their faith,” stated Bucci. “Anyone who was able to be part of this unique event, whether they went to the Mass at Madison Square Garden or the saw the Pope in Central Park, or were at one of the other venues he visited, understands how difficult it is to sum up in words this experience. It was a once-in-a-lifetime memory.”

Pope Francis: an inspirational man

Anita Welych’s mother, Lilia, 86, and her aunt, Ines, 87, also won tickets from the Diocese of Syracuse to attend the Madison Square Mass. Welych’s mother and aunt are both originally from Colombia, and Welych helped them travel from Syracuse to New York to see the Pope, despite not having a ticket herself for the event. Fortunately, arrangements were made for Welych to accompany her aunt and mother inside the arena, and for Welych the opportunity was one she was thankful not to have missed.

“We were in an elevator at Penn Station when someone called out, ‘How many of us are here to see the Pope?’ The entire elevator erupted in cheers,” stated Welych. Once outside the arena, Welych help guide the two senior citizen women from Syracuse down five city blocks to the end of the security checkpoint line.

“People in line were from all over the world, and we waited two hours to go through security, but everyone was jovial and in a great mood,” explained Welych.

The women eventually were seated in an upper section of the arena for Mass and waited patiently through performances by Stephen Colbert, Gloria Estefan and Jennifer Hudson. “Then we heard thunderous applause, and we saw Pope Francis arrive in a golf cart,” stated Welych.

The Syracuse residents had a clear view from their seats of the Pope throughout the Mass. They were impressed by the many representatives from various Catholic churches on the altar and the readers who spoke in several different languages. The true high point for the three women was hearing the pope speak in his native language, Spanish, during the homily.

“Because we are bilingual, we understood him perfectly,” stated Welych. “He is a brilliant speaker, so eloquent! He spoke of people, the ones we see walking past, the ones who own much of the city, and the ‘invisible people,’ the ones we step around, overlook and never think about. He urged us to find these people and take care of them. His message rang clearly throughout the crowd.”

When it was time for Communion, Welych was impressed how quickly the lines moved with the assistance of deacons and seminarians throughout the venue. “[I also enjoyed] when Cardinal Dolan spoke about the pope. He stated to the crowd ‘He is among us!’ and people leapt to their feet cheering.”

As the Pope prepared to leave, Welych stated he flashed a “broad sincere smile,” and asked the crowd to pray for him. Before leaving the stage, the Pope stopped to bless a person in a wheelchair.

“For me, this trip was a very moving experience,” stated Welych. “I’ve never seen so many Catholics in one place at one time. We all felt his presence in a very real and personal way. All through the city, people were talking about the Pope; we’d hear them say, ‘I’m not even Catholic, but I LOVE this Pope!’ I admire his fearlessness, honesty and compassion and how he boldly goes to prisons, homeless shelters and even Congress, to discuss the source of the misery in our world. His broad connections reveal to us a world out of balance – environmentally and economically. He stresses how we need compassion for the millions of refugees fleeing war and poverty, but along with compassion, we need to implement sound strategies to keep our planet healthy and allocate resources more equitably. He is a Pope that inspires me.”

Pat Shea is the former associate editor of The Catholic Sun.

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Category: Catholic Identity

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