"This was the opportunity of a lifetime."
Director of Ministry & Service, Kelli Kinnear, said that was just one of the feelings she had while attending the World Meeting of Families Conference in Philadelphia last week and having the opportunity to be in the presence of Pope Francis.
"I think he is a beacon of light in our world and he brings such a sense of hope, not only to Catholics around the world, but everyone," shared Kinnear.
Four members of the CJ community went to Philadelphia during the Pope's visit. Kinnear attended several sessions during the conference including one facilitated by the Archbishop of the Philippines.
"I really enjoyed his session because he spoke about caring for the wounded of our church and of the world," Kinnear said.
Sr. Nicole Trahan, FMI, attended the conference as well and was with other Marianists who worked a booth during the meeting. Jose Osnaya '16 went to Philadelphia to take in the experience with his family.
"I really enjoyed seeing the Pope in his Pope mobile smile and wave to everyone there," Osnaya said.
Thomas VanDorpe '16 went to Philadelphia with the Legion of Christ, an order of Catholic priests.
"Two Legionary brothers (Br. David and Br. Thomas) and two Legionary priests (Fr. Daniel and Fr. Ronald) organized a group of about 24 young men from mainly Ohio and Kentucky, but there were a few from Wisconsin as well," said VanDorpe. "I spent one month this summer as a volunteer at their camps and work with the priest who organized this trip."
On Friday and Saturday, VanDorpe said his group, along with more than 300 others, went into Philadelphia to bring the joy of the Gospel to everyone they met.
"We had more than 5,000 rosaries, several hundred copies of Christopher West's book Pope Francis to Go, holy cards, food, water and a lot of other religious articles that we passed out," shared VanDorpe. "We walked all over the city talking to people and taking prayer intentions. It was incredible."
Prior to the Festival of Families on Saturday night, a priest and members of VanDorpe's group also facilitated an impromptu confessional.
"It was an unforgettable thing, just to see the look on people's faces while they were in confession and just the joy they had afterwards," VanDorpe said. "It really was the high point of my trip, along with seeing Pope Francis of course. But just to help people have the sacrament of confession was a great experience."
The Festival of Families included many entertainers and personal stories from families around the world. Pope Francis concluded the festival and spoke to the attendees in English.
On Sunday, more than one million people gathered along Benjamin Franklin Parkway for the Papal Mass on the Parkway.
"During Mass, everyone was so reverent," said Kinnear. "To have more than one million people silent during the consecration and during communion, it was amazing."
Kinnear also shared, "I felt blessed to have this opportunity. I hope to be able to share more, with the CJ community, what I received in my experience."