Seventeen pilgrims from the Hope CommUnity Center joined the hundreds of thousands gathered for the Festival of Families and Papal Mass in Philadelphia on Sept. 26 and 27.
“In the immigrant and farmworking community where I have served for almost 45 years, the people began the “buzz,” Do you ever think we could go to see the pope in person? Graciously, a generous benefactor upon hearing this, stepped up and offered to cover the expenses. And we were off. Some never having flown before or been on a train,” said Sister of Notre Dame de Namur Ann Kendrick, one of the founding sisters of Hope CommUnity Center.
Before leaving for Philadelphia, she gathered Hope’s Youth Group “Sin Fronteras” to discuss in small groups the themes of Pope Francis’ speeches using cards with pope quotes. She said the reports of these immigrant teenagers were profound and moving. The next day Hope CommUnity Center hosted a Pope Watch Party and Press Conference during the pope’s historic speech to Congress.
The attendees used bingo cards marked with references to the social issues plaguing the U.S. and the world that were mentioned by Pope Francis. Undocumented immigrant families spoke about their hopes and dreams as well as their struggles and suffering. It was a powerful moment of solidarity, according to Sister Ann.
“Our trip to Philadelphia and our witness to the profound connection Pope Francis has made with the people showed his capacity to lead from the heart with real concern for and understanding of the joy and suffering of their real lives. Pope Francis is a real pastor who loves the people. His life witness as well as his words both challenged us to be better people and inspired us to keep faithful to our call to be in solidarity with the poor, immigrants and all vulnerable people in the cause for a more just and merciful social order,” said Sister Ann.
“During the weekend we together with Francis and the millions gathered lived the mandate of seeking humility, service, and love. With humble hearts we greeted one another and created community connections, we served one another and we grew in love. Our team packed meals for Catholic Relief Services to send to Africa and we visited elderly folks in an independent living facility. We waited for hours with crowds of people who never complained and behaved with generosity and friendly curiosity. Just a glimpse of Francis was enough for our folks. And so our immigrant community comes home with our heads held high, proud of who we are and stoked to continue our work of building diverse service learning communities of care and social change. We are all grateful,” added Sister Ann.
An interesting note: Twenty three years ago two youth from Hope CommUnity Center went to Denver, Colorado with Sister Cathy Gorman for the World Youth Day attended by Pope John Paul II and now as a married couple of 21 years with three children, they participated in this pilgrimage to see a pope and continue their journey of faith.