People far and wide celebrated the Sept. 22 to 27 visit of Pope Francis to the United States. Excitement was everywhere, whether people were listening in person, watching televised broadcasts or participating in local community events. Around the East Coast, people gathered to pray, to learn and to share in the joy of the pontiff’s message.
In Boston, timed with the start of the pope’s official events, people gathered for an interfaith candlelight prayer vigil. The Sept. 23 event, led by C. Raymond Selker, OFM, of St. Anthony Shrine, was called “Supporting Pope Francis’ Call for Climate Action.” It was reported on by CBS.
As he stood Wednesday evening on the steps of St. Ignatius Catholic Church beside the campus of Boston College, Ray said he “shared that since in 2013, a Jesuit was elected as pope and took the name of Francis of Assisi, it seemed apropos that a Franciscan friar stood on the front steps of a Jesuit parish to talk about ‘Laudato Si’’ and one of its inspirations from the patron of ecology, St. Francis.”
He described the encounter with the leper “that had greatly impacted the life of Francis and how, according to Celano, after the meeting, the saint remounted his horse and all he saw in front of him was the plain. Perhaps it also becomes the impetus that allowed Francis not only to see a stranger as a brother or sister, but to begin to see all of creation in much the same fashion.”
“After sharing some of the lines from ‘All Creatures of Our God and King,’ I discussed experiences during my time as a friar that have shown moments less than perfect in dealing with environmental issues, such as the Water Wars of Bolivia in 2000, and more encouraging attempts to reduce further loss of biodiversity, such as China’s efforts to aid in the survival of one of its national treasures, the Giant Panda.”
“Within Laudato Si, Pope Francis encourages open and challenging dialogue between institutions, organizations, and culture to foster solutions and to reduce the errors of the past. However, not all solutions come in elimination of pollutants, but in creating more greenways, public spaces, even in styles of architecture.”
At several ministries — including St. Bonaventure University in Western New York and St. Patrick-St. Anthony Parish in Hartford, Conn. — people gathered to watch the pope’s televised events together. At SBU, the viewing was in the Merton Center, the campus ministry center named for Thomas Merton, who the pope cited in his speech to Congress on Sept. 24 as one of four illustrious Americans. Merton lived and worked on the SBU campus form 1940 to 1941.
In New York City, parishioners of St. Mary’s Church in Pompton Lakes, N.J., participated in Light the Way, a multi-faith festival of prayer and music held the night before Pope Francis spoke before the United Nations. According to the event’s website, people around the world gathered to focus on climate change. “Before the goals are announced and Pope Francis speaks to the UN, thousands of people around the world will stand together Under One Sky to light the Way. Join us and shine a light on the commitments about to be made so that the world knows about them and every world leader knows that we’ll be watching every step of the way to ensure they are met.”
At many HNP sites, people enjoyed lighter moments — photographing themselves with life-size cardboard replicas of Pope Francis. St. Anthony Shrine posted a photo on its website of with a headline “Pope Francis Visits Franciscan Food Center” and St. Francis International School in Silver Spring, Md., is using a photo of students with a cutout pope as its Facebook cover image.
Last week, the students of St. Francis International School, on the campus of St. Camillus Parish, celebrated the pope in varied ways. On Tuesday, just after his arrival in Washington, a delegation of 18 students welcomed the pontiff as he arrived at the Apostolic Nunciature in Washington. Comments from several SFIS students about Pope Francis were featured in El Pregonero, a Spanish language newspaper.
Many parishes around the province also hosted viewing parties during the papal Masses and addresses to Congress and the United Nations.
— Jocelyn Thomas is director of communications for Holy Name Province.
- “New Jersey Parish Launches New Website about Environment” – Sept. 29, 2015, HNP Today
- “St. Francis International School Gains Third Sponsor” — March 9, 2011, HNP Today