As almost everyone in the Philadelphia area should know by now Pope Francis was just here for the World Meeting of Families. The city of Philadelphia took every precaution necessary to make sure this event ran smoothly and most importantly, safely. The set up began days before Pope Francis even stepped foot on U.S. soil, but when one million people are expected to enter the city every minute was needed to secure the area. The National Guard was called in to block off the streets and maintain the cities safety as most of the main streets and highways were shut down beginning Thursday night. Also, I have never seen so many porta-potties in my life lining the streets and bridges all the way from Drexel’s campus through the center of the city; this was really a big weekend for the porta-potty business!
Having such a significant world figure come to our city is a once and a lifetime opportunity and it was something I definitely wanted to capitalize on. Saturday, September 26th is when Pope Francis paraded down the streets of Philadelphia for the first time in the “Pope Mobile”. I did not attend any events on this day thinking the crowds would be too difficult to deal with and I wanted to save my energy for the Mass on Sunday, which I knew would be an all day activity, and I was right. My Sunday began pretty early as I left my house a little after 10am. Since most of the streets were closed to foot traffic only I wanted to give myself plenty of time to walk into the city and get in line. Let me just say now, I completely underestimated how long and slow the lines were going to be. I ended up waiting in the checkpoint line for about 4 hours. The line spanned the width of the street and was about 8 blocks deep. Once I finally got in I found a “good” spot and settled in.
The mass was everything I could have hoped for and was such a warm-hearted experience. I could only really see the Pope on the big screens lining the parkway, but just being in the presence of the Pope delivering mass with the beautiful choirs sing the hymns in the background felt heavenly. My favorite part was when the choir sang “Taste and See”. Since it is such a well-known hymn, and pretty easy to catch on to, everyone sang along. It filled me with such a sense of unity and peace, which I think it rare when you are standing with a group of one million strangers.
Besides the struggles of being trapped in the city all weekend with a lot of places closed down this was a great thing to experience. I had to deal with one of the largest crowds I’ve ever seen and stand in lines for what felt like forever, but I will never forget this weekend and everything that went along with it. I leave this weekend with nothing but happy memories and stories. Plus, how often do you get to walk down the middle of Market Street in the middle of the day, that was pretty special within itself!