Two local couples realized a “once in a lifetime” moment when they attended Mass with Pope Francis Sunday.
Matt and Emily Joost of St. Mary Parish, their young daughter Cecilia, and Ashley and Trent Gutridge of Cathedral Parish were in Philadelphia this weekend for the World Meeting of Families and attended the Sunday Mass over which Pope Francis presided.
“We were very honored and amazed that we were able to be in his presence,” said Ashley Gutridge. “I feel like when you are there, you hear what he says in a different way. You’re taking in everything, not just the words he says, but his body language, the way he says it and how passionate he is about it.”
Emily Joost said the pope’s message was very pro-family and positive, with hope for the future and for families. She said the entire experience gave her a feeling of hope for the church and for the world.
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“I don’t know how many people ended up there today, but everyone was very kind to each other,” she said. “It was neat to see the universality of the church, people of all different nationalities... We were sitting next to people from Canada speaking French and people from Africa, all following the Catholic faith.”
Trent Guthridge said that by word and example, Pope Francis helps teach them what it means to be Catholic.
“His example of a humble life, of taking time to get to know as many people as we can, it really illustrates for all of us a Christ-like example so we have a model to follow in our own lives,” he said. “The whole reason we came out here... the reason the pope came here, was to strengthen our faith and go out and provide an example... when we go back to our homes.”
Ashley Gutridge said the message she perceived was that as the family goes, society goes. “It’s small gestures,” she said. “You do it through showing love. You show your family love, and other people will see it.”
More than a million people were expected for Pope Francis’ open-air Sunday afternoon Mass, the World Meeting of Families. The pope spoke about being open to love for all the families in the world, capping a busy day in which he met with victims of child sexual abuse at the hands of priests and made an unscheduled stop at a Jesuit seminary. Speaking in Spanish with an English translator, the pope told families they are “a factory of hope.”
The pope’s six-day visit to the United States included a historic address to the U.S. Congress - the first ever for a sitting Pope - and a private meeting with President Obama, as well as a canonization ceremony for the first American saint, address to the United Nations, services at St. Patrick’s Cathedral and at the 9/11 Memorial in New York City, among many others. He departed for Rome on Sunday evening.