Back home in Honolulu and back in the office only 48 hours after we took our place alongside the roughly one million other pilgrims for events that had so many glued to jumbotrons all over the City of Brotherly Love (and Sisterly Affection), events that brought together so many people of different faiths across the entire nation, it’s time for some final reflections on this amazing, life-altering journey.
Just a little over a month ago, I was one of the presenters at the Diocesan Faith Formation Conference in Hilo. The experience began with my flight the night before being delayed 3 hours and delays in my colleagues’ luggage getting to HIlo that same evening (their bags arrived early the next morning). And, as it has been for most of the summer, it was really, really hot. And humid. After my presentation was done I caught a ride to the airport with our wonderful Superintendent of Hawaii Catholic Schools, Dr. Michael Rockers. After 24 hours of what seemed like endless chaos, the quiet moment we had talking about our faith and our families was such a nice reprieve and instantly erased all the memories of the mayhem. When I returned to the office that Monday, I sent Mike an email to say a quick thank you. His reply? “Isn’t our God wonderful in that He allows us to know Him not only through scripture and prayer, but through the people we encounter each day.” Well said, Mike.
The amazing truth of those words became quite clear during my time in Philadelphia. When I look back at our magical week, there are certain random encounters I remember so clearly, and in thinking back, they weren’t random at all, just God’s way of reminding me, “Hey! I’m right here.” There was the adorable 5-year-old Tommy from Louisiana who for whatever reason decided I would have the honor of grabbing him a fresh paint brush each time he handed me a used brush and said, “I want (insert color of choice here) now” as we made our contribution to the record-breaking mural dedicated to Pope Francis. And then there was the delightful group of students from Bucknell University who woke up at 3 a.m. Sunday morning to attend the Papal Mass, kept asking, “Wow, do you really live in Hawaii?! WOW!!” and who made the stark reality of trying to find our way back to the Philadelphia Sports Complex parking lot (along with a million other people) a whole lot easier to digest. And finally, one entertaining encounter that convinced me God has an awesome sense of humor. During the rousing number performed by Sister Sledge at the Festival of Families, a priest who would dance whenever some peppy music came on suddenly grabbed my hand as the entire Ben Franklin Parkway boogied to “We Are Family.” He even instigated an impromptu can can at the end. After my partner-in-crime Darlene Dela Cruz and I stopped dancing and laughing long enough to find out where this fun Father was from (Quebec), then came the hilarious reveal – we asked the name of his parish and he replied, “Oh! I am a Bishop!” As you can see from the picture, his enthusiastic attitude and unabashed love for everything are contagious. Isn’t our God wonderful?
With the end of the Papal visit came the announcement of the location for the next World Meeting of Families in 2018: Dublin, Ireland.
And so I end this post with the Irish blessing – for all my fellow pilgrims from Hawaii, for the wonderful Chiagoans who graciously shared their bus with our merry little group, for all the event organizers, volunteers, servicemen and women, and public safety officers who worked so hard to make every single one of us feel welcome and safe and put on one heck of a show. For our beloved Papa Francesco and all the Bishops and clergy who gave of their time to celebrate such beautiful Masses. For all of you:
May the road rise to meet you
May the wind be always at your back
May the sun shine warm upon your face,
Rain fall softly upon your fields
And until we meet again
May God hold you in the palm of his hand