La Salle Magazine’s winter 2015–16 cover story, A New Chapter Begins, highlighted some of the ways in which students, alumni, faculty, and staff from across the La Salle community were inspired to serve during the World Meeting of Families and Pope Francis’s visit to Philadelphia.
The response from the Explorer community about their involvement in this historic event was overwhelming—and left so many additional stories to be told. So here they are. Below, in their own words, they shared some of their memorable experiences and insights.
Ellen Walsh, ’75
On Saturday, we spent the day at the Festival of Families, taking a four-hour volunteer shift on the Guest Services team. We were posted at the corner of 17th and Cherry streets to answer attendees’ questions and direct them to where they needed to go. It was a great location, since there was a Jumbotron there, which enabled us to watch the Pope’s midday Mass from the Cathedral Basilica while at our post, along with many other attendees there.
Right there on the busy corner, with thousands of people coming and going, there was a shared reverent participation in the Liturgy in many different languages. And thanks to my proficiency in Spanish (I majored in Spanish education at La Salle), I was able to help several visitors who couldn’t speak English.
After our volunteer session, we enjoyed the rest of the festival entertainment, including the Papal motorcade and the evening’s concert. I was struck by the excitement and enthusiasm of all things Catholic throughout the day.
On Sunday morning, we made our way back to Philadelphia to join several other family members on Benjamin Franklin Parkway for the Mass. We waited nearly three hours in the security checkpoint line. The crowds helped pass the time and maintain energy by singing, chanting, playing instruments, and even reciting the Rosary. It was a long, but fairly congenial wait.
We eventually found a place for ourselves on the Parkway for the Mass. It was well worth the wait! Again, there was a reverent, yet jubilant feeling among all of us present there. Everyone was thrilled when the Eucharistic ministers processed down the Parkway and provided all of us with access to Communion.
It was a terrific and memorable weekend.”
Janet Yolanda Cosby, ’15
“I was chosen to sing for the two-night revival opening up the week for the World Meeting of Families. I was then asked if I would like to sing for the Papal Mass; only 50 singers from the revival choir were invited.
The most exciting thing about my involvement in this event was being a part of the Mass officiated by His Holiness Pope Francis, who so many people love and respect and revere as a Saint in our midst.
So many people, regardless of religious affiliation, were excited to witness the wondrous event. People from all religious backgrounds felt that it was a privilege and an honor to be a part of the celebration.”
Stephanie (Salvatore) Brophy, ’06
“Hearing how much people still talked about the 1979 papal visit (was exciting). We have quite a few priests in the Archdiocese who were seminarians at the time, and they remember the visit of Pope John Paul II so vividly.
I think that struck me, and after seeing Pope Francis (myself), I can see why they remember it so vividly, like it happened last week, because it just resonated with us. We put so much time into the preparations that when it was actually here, I just wanted to take it all in and make it last.
I was staffing the prison visit on Sunday and I actually got a chance to meet Pope Francis. I’m pregnant, and he blessed my belly!”
Franz Freuhwald, ’80, MBA ’94
“My wife and I had the opportunity to be at the seminary on Sunday morning, when Pope Francis addressed the bishops and cardinals, and that was wonderful. I’m also in the deaconate formation process. He did make a reference to deacons and got a big round of applause from all of us who were there. He said, ‘The Church has recognized from the very beginning that priests and bishops can’t do it all; that’s why they invented deacons,’ and that got a big round of applause.
On Saturday evening at the Festival of Families, my wife and I were standing with a group of Dominican postulates. They were young women, who were either Dominican novices or postulates, and there were probably about 30 or 40 of them. They were from Nashville, Tenn., and I have children older than them. They were all so young, but their enthusiasm and their faith and to be amongst them, it was really uplifting. It was such a wonderful experience. One of the singers came out, his name is Matt Maher, and he started singing and all these young women in their habits—and they were wearing the old style habits that you think of when you think of a nun—they were all rocking with him and it was absolutely wonderful.
It was really great to be among such people. Everyone was so well behaved; they were polite. We were all there for a common experience and you don’t have that opportunity very often.
Certainly for Philadelphia (the Papal visit) was a wonderful opportunity. When the Vatican first announced several years ago that the World Meeting of Families would be here, I think it was just an affirmation of the city and the fact that we could pull it off and the kind of city that Philadelphia is. I think Philadelphia showed very much its best side over that week and especially the weekend.
And the other La Salle alums who I know were there, we were all of the same mindset that this was such a great experience, that it was wonderful to see the Holy Father, and to experience the excitement that something like this brings with it. Some of us have been to Rome, some of us have been in general audiences at the Vatican, but this is our city. He came here to see us. And he said that.
He said, ‘I’ll be there because you’ll be there.’ I think he said that about the week before he came, and that was wonderful to hear.”
Carol (Phelan) Hunt, ’85
“I belong to the Cathedral Basilica of Saints Peter and Paul parish, which had a very special and significant role in the World Meeting of Families. I served on a committee helping with all sorts of activities from selecting the banner welcoming Pope Francis to opening a temporary gift shop.
The Cathedral held many events during the week leading up to the Papal Mass on Saturday, including additional daily Masses, 24-hour adoration of the Blessed Sacrament, Cathedral tours, lectures, and a display of relics from Saint Pope John Paul II, Saint Gianna, Saint Thérèse (of Lisieux), and her parents, Louis and Zélie Martin (who were canonized as saints in October).
I was truly inspired by the dedication and devotion of this small group of parishioners both for this very special week of events and for the service they give to the Church every week throughout the year.”
Joseph Magee, ’65
“I am an ambassador at the Cathedral Basilica of Saints Peter and Paul in Philadelphia. On three afternoons during the World Meeting of Families week, I have been at the Cathedral to give tours and answer questions.”
Jack (John) Marczely, ’60
“The World Meeting of Families volunteer management team is very professional and efficient, making an involved and complicated process work very well. Thanks to them, I made it onto the Guest Services volunteer list for the Papal Mass on Sunday, Sept. 27.”
James Gallombardo, ’85
“I am a La Salle alum from the Class of 1985 and volunteered as a Fourth Degree Knight of Columbus at the Papal Mass.”
Maria Ordinola Paredes, ’15
“On Monday, I volunteered at the Convention Center. I helped to package meals to send to West Africa. Then I helped to welcome and register people who just came to Philadelphia and attended the events. In addition, I was helping people who speak Spanish, since Spanish is my first language. I met a group of Peruvian people who just got to Philadelphia. I am from Peru, so I was very excited.”
Mark Metzler, Class of 2018
“I volunteered to help for the Mass—I took a background check in the summer and then was cleared to register to volunteer for the World Meeting of Families.
I was assigned to Guest Services for the Mass, so I basically helped direct foot traffic to the security checkpoints for the first few hours. Later, I helped people cross the roadway inside the secure area by clearing paths for the elderly, people in wheelchairs, and parents with strollers. I also stopped traffic to allow emergency vehicles to get by, since people were continually crossing the streets. I answered general questions as best I could to help give directions to the nearest bathrooms, food stands, water fountains, etc.
It was a really cool event to be a part of.”
Maureen R. Rilling, ’88, M.A. ’92
“On Saturday morning, Sept. 26, I had the opportunity to serve as an usher at the Papal Mass in the Cathedral of Saints Peter and Paul. Our Archdiocesan clergy, representatives of local religious communities of Sisters and Brothers, and lay faithful crowded the Basilica Church and the Chapel.
For me, the highlight was the homily, which I believe Pope Francis addressed not only to those present in the Cathedral, but to the entire Archdiocese of Philadelphia and the Church in the United States. Even those of us without fluency in Spanish realized, when Pope Francis pointed his finger towards the congregation and inquired, ‘¿Y tú?’ that he was asking, ‘And you?’
Recalling the words of Pope Leo XII to St. Katharine Drexel, the Holy Father challenged all of us to consider our baptismal responsibility for the Church’s mission. He highlighted the important contribution of the laity, particularly women, in the Church. And dear to the heart of any Lasallian educator, Pope Francis emphasized the importance of catechesis and of valuing the role of young people in the Church.”
James Pagliaro, Esq., ’73
“I am the Chair of the Corporate Partners Board of the Philadelphia Museum of Art and also a member of the Board of Trustees. My work for the museum and my service on the various museum boards is volunteered. I am also a trained docent at the art museum and have been giving tours at the museum for 12 years.
I (was) asked by the art museum to be present for the entire day on Sunday, Sept. 27 (the day of the Papal Mass).
The art museum opened its doors to the clergy and hundreds of priests, deacons, bishops, and even some cardinals who used the art museum to don their vestments for the Papal Mass. I was there as an emissary of the museum and to provide guided tours of the Christian art treasures in the Museum to our distinguished visitors from around the world.
I was (also) selected to give the advance planning folks at the World Meeting of Families a tour of the museum’s Christian art when they scouted out cultural spots last year in planning for the Papal visit.”
Michael Smith, Ph.D., Associate Professor of Communication
“I worked as a media relations volunteer in the Media Center for the World Meeting of Families/Papal visit. The Media Center was the primary headquarters for the local, national, and international media covering the event. Both the Vatican and the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops—which organized the Pope’s visit—centered their media operations in Philadelphia, and it was fascinating to watch them work.
The best part of the experience was seeing so many La Salle alumni on both sides of the camera/notebook, from the many public relations staff members and volunteers to reporters from a number of outlets. While some last-minute Secret Service decisions kept many media relations volunteers from assisting at actual Papal venues, the experience was still rich, and provided me with many examples and ‘war stories’ for the classroom.”
Trevor Grigoruk, Class of 2019
“I volunteered at this year’s World Meeting of Families through the Communication Department. I was a Digital Diplomat, which meant taking photos, and posting them to (social media sites like) Twitter, Facebook, and Snapchat to bring the Papal visit to everyone around the world. I was right in the action on both Sept. 26 as well as Sept. 27. I was very excited to be a part of this huge event!”
Andrew Zwarych, MBA Class of 2016
“During the World Meeting of Families and the Papal visit, I had the opportunity to photograph for The Ukrainian Weekly, the oldest English-language newspaper of the Ukrainian diaspora in the United States and North America.
From the first Mass to the final one, it truly was a memorable week. The city of Philadelphia lived up to its expectations and put on a remarkable event for the world to see. Being a native Philadelphian and photographer, this was truly a highlight in my photography career.”
Adam Bagni, ’07
Adam Bagni is a reporter for the NBC affiliate station in the Providence, R.I., and New Bedford, Mass., markets. He came to Philadelphia to cover Pope Francis’s visit for his local station.
“It sounds cliché, but there was unquestionable electricity in the city. Of course, for a visiting journalist, it was a logistical nightmare. We walked for miles with heavy gear, struggled to get access amid massive crowds, and work space? Forget it. But that’s what made Pope Francis’s visit so special. It was crazy, because it was the place to be.
It’s tough to describe what it’s like to be in the presence of a man who inspires the world, to report firsthand on an icon making history, and talk to a crowd so excited that they smile at you for no reason. These aren’t sports fans. This is their life.
When we went live in our evening newscast, it was certainly one of the highlights of my career. (I reported) live from Independence Mall, where the Pope gave a speech using Abraham Lincoln’s lectern. Goosebumps.
I know a lot of people stayed away, and I totally get it. It was no picnic: transportation was a nightmare, security was excessive, and attendance was a disappointment (for those reasons). But if you were a Philadelphian who left town, you missed out. The Pontiff’s visit was one of Philly’s finest hours, and I’ll never forget I was there.”
Matt DeLucia, ’07
Matt DeLucia is a morning news reporter at NBC10, Philadelphia’s local NBC affiliate station.
“This visit took months of intense preparation, and all of it was for less than a week—and in Philly’s case, a weekend. I must have done a countless number of stories (for NBC10) on everything from what will happen to the hotels, to what will happen with the trash. I’ve covered so many stories in my career that could not (and probably will not) compare to what we experienced that weekend. Historic is an understatement.
This is the City of Brotherly Love, and let’s admit we don’t always have the best reputation of showing it. Yet, for that single weekend, I saw people giving, hugging, and even passing babies to complete strangers for the chance of a Papal kiss and blessing.
The true blessing is that Philadelphia was selected for this rare opportunity—one in which we showed that we can welcome the world, be kind, and share a moment in time that may not come again for a generation or more.”
Philadelphia Mayor Elect Jim Kenney, ’80
“Having the Pope in Philadelphia was simply wonderful. His visit put Philadelphia on the national stage, and reminded us all of the importance of the Golden Rule.
In that spirit, I attended the LGBT Family Papal Picnic on Saturday at John C. Anderson Apartments, where I had the opportunity to speak with Catholic LGBT families about their fight for inclusion in the Church. I was truly honored to be able to meet Margie Winters and her partner, Andrea, both of whom have done so much to raise awareness about the discrimination LGBT individuals still face.
On Sunday night, I took my parents to the Papal departure ceremony at Atlantic Aviation. While I hated to see Pope Francis go, I think he has left the city in a better place than before he came. I’m committed to turning his words into action by continuing to serve those most in need in our city.”
Nicole Woods, ’06
“I was proud and honored that my hometown was selected by the Vatican to host such an important, worldwide event. When Pope Francis confirmed that he would be attending (the World Meeting of Families), the event became even more momentous and meaningful. At a time of turmoil in the Catholic Church, Pope Francis is a beacon of hope and peace; a true disciple who embodies Jesus’ teachings.
I did not know until the day of the event that I would have a bird’s-eye view of the Papal Address on Religious Freedom and Immigration at Independence Hall. This moment was made possible by the National Museum of American Jewish History (located at 5th and Market streets), which generously allowed myself, my colleague, and a representative from Visit Philly to view and photograph the event from their terrace, where CNN was stationed and running a live news feed.
The significance and symbolism of the moment was overwhelming. When I first glimpsed the popemobile and motorcade processing down Market Street right below me, I became emotional. Despite the thousands gathered, and their excited cheering, the moment had a stillness and clarity. It was amazing to think that everyone there was present in the name of God. I imagined that the crowd who welcomed Jesus into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday might have had a similar feeling. The memory is surreal and will stay with me for a lifetime.
I believe that Pope Francis represents the future of the Catholic Church. As the first Jesuit Pope, his values align more closely with the Christian Brothers’ than many others in the office before him. His emphasis on living simply, helping the poor, and welcoming all—rather than standing in judgement—resonates with La Salle alums and all young Philadelphians.
His message and way of life are a welcome departure from the politicization and polarization apparent in so many Archdioceses. I am excited to see the effect of his influence in bringing young Catholics back to the Church, and I feel very blessed to have experienced the joy of his presence.”
“I was very honored to attend Pope Francis’s address to the 200 bishops and cardinals at Saint Charles Borromeo Seminary on Sunday. I had received the invitation because I have been a member of the Seminary’s Academic Affairs Committee of the Board of Trustees for the past three years.”
Mey-Yen Moriuchi, Ph.D., Assistant Professor of Fine Arts
“My ‘Introduction to Art History’ classes discussed ‘Pope Art’ during the week of Pope Francis’s visit. The Pope’s visit to Philadelphia inspired many local artists and public art projects, from pop artist Perry Milou, who created the Pope’s official World Meeting of Families portrait, to the Philadelphia mural, ‘The Sacred Now: Faith and Family in the 21st Century’ by Cesar Viveros. They also looked at images of St. Francis of Assisi throughout the history of art to see how images have pictorially demonstrated his renunciation of wealth for a life of service.”
Huntly Collins, M.A., Assistant Professor of Communication
Students in Collins’ “In-Depth Journalism” class spent the entire month of September doing work related to the Pope. “Assignments included a story on the ‘new face of American Catholicism,’ featuring a local parish who offers services in English, Spanish, and Tagalog for the diverse parishioners, and a biography of Pope Francis, how he is different from previous Popes, and what changes he has brought or will bring to the Church.
During the World Meeting of Families, students served as citizen journalists, covering events on their website, germantownbeat.lasalle.edu, and social media. After the World Meeting of Families, students wrote a critique of the media coverage surrounding the event.”
Br. Ernest Miller, F.S.C., D.Min., M.A. ’95
In addition to providing commentary during Pope Francis’s Sunday morning addresses, Br. Ernest also took part in a roundtable discussion for a special one-hour episode of Jim Gardner’s Inside Story on 6ABC. Father Frank Berna, Ph.D., Director of the Graduate Religion Program in Theology and Ministry, also joined the discussion along with a rabbi, a diocesan priest from Norristown, and Urban Trinity film producer and creator Katie Oxx, Ph.D.
“It was a privilege to represent La Salle in such a public space, offering comments in light of the Pope’s two Sunday morning addresses. Both moments highlight the significant change he is exercising in a bishop’s three ministries: teaching, sanctifying, and governing.
It is important to consider where he went and the teaching he emphasized at each of the venues.
The sum of his time with us in Philadelphia, and the sum of his whole pastoral visit to the United States, and the sum of his young papacy is that we need to be witnesses by what we do. We need to be witnesses by our actions. He’s calling us to relate with one another, including the stranger, out of love. Everything is anchored in a Christian understanding of love. That’s crystal clear. And to act with passion and compassion, especially to those who are vulnerable, especially to those who are in greater need.
But ultimately, that passion and compassion need to lead us individually and collectively to be engaged in transforming, changing the systems, the structures that leave people vulnerable, that impoverish people, that marginalize people. My hope is that we have voices to carry that for them.
What he emphasized is not new in terms of Catholic social teaching. But he has a way of bringing the richness of Catholic social teaching alive—both in terms of his written text and his speeches—in a way that recent popes, for different reasons, haven’t been able to do. It’s new because I think for some, it’s the first time they’re hearing it, but he is also giving the message in a way that is causing people to hear it.
We have much to continue to unpack and grasp from his time with us here while continuing to understand the significance of his papacy.”