Only a handful of Spokanites traveled to Philadelphia last week to see Pope Francis. Among them was were two local nuns, Mother Kathryn Joseph and Sister Paschalina Marie of Sisters of Mary, Mothers of the Church. They traveled to Philadelphia through a grant from the Council of Major Superiors of Women Religious.
FāVS caught up with them and asked about their experience. Below is a Q&A with FāVS and Sr. Paschalina Marie: (Some nswers have been edited for length)
FāVS: What events did you go to?
Sr. Paschalina: Mother and I attended the entirety of the World Meeting of Families program. I was inspired by the courage with which the keynote speakers delivered their addresses. They spoke in a way that allowed the truth and freedom of God’s plan for the family to be attractive and attainable through His mercy and personal care for us. When the Holy Father spoke on Saturday evening, I was addressed as though by my father, and not a dignitary. I was overwhelmed by the power and witness of thousands of people gathered in prayer and mutual love for the same intention. The Holy Masses were extremely moving. The procession of clergy on Tuesday for the opening Mass took over 15 minutes! I felt so loved and connected.
I also had the blessing of assisting at two sessions of the Youth Congress as a small group leader for children from around the United States. It was beautiful to see how much they enjoyed themselves, and the deep love they had for their families and their faith. The Youth Congress was comparable to a huge Vacation Bible School. It was a blessing and privilege to accompany the children and join them in praise and worship.
FāVS: How would you describe the atmosphere?
Sr. Paschalina: I loved Philadelphia. We were received with such care and graciousness. Everyone was so helpful. I felt so safe and cared for. I was particularly impressed with the SEPTA public transport system. I pray for the opportunity to visit again. I would love to visit the Shrine of the Miraculous Medal.
The CMSWR sisters hosted a Holy Hour with adoration of the Blessed Sacrament in the adoration chapel of the Basilica of Sts. Peter and Paul. It was beautiful to see how many people came to join us for prayer. We interceded for all areas of family life.
I was amazed how open the people of Philadelphia are to prayer. Te Our Lady, Undoer of Knots attracted what looked like millions of prayer petitions!
FāVS: What was your reaction to the papal visit?
Sr. Paschalina: What I would share is that seeing the Holy Father is something different than seeing a dignitary like a political leader or a political figure. It’s not about Pope Francis, really, it’s about Pope Francis proposing Jesus. A good man like Pope Francis, and his attractiveness says something about the Lord he loves. Pope Francis doesn’t come home to a poster of himself on the wall, but a crucifix, the most perfect sign of God’s lavish love outpoured upon the human race, even though we really didn’t deserve it. Just like Jesus, people don’t have to do anything to elicit the love of Pope Francis. He is a man in love with God and invites us to be in love with him, too.
FāVS: In what ways do you hope to take his message back to the Spokane community?
I think what I would like to bring back to Spokane is the message of courage that the Holy Father gave to families, particularly during his address on Saturday evening. Take courage, families! Your journey and mission is not an easy one, but it is worth it, it is essential, it is not replaceable. I want to bring Christ’s merciful love to families so they can become what they are, to use the words of St. John Paul II. The love of husband and wife is unique, a gift from God from the beginning, and cannot be substituted with something in its place. We can’t be afraid of announcing this truth – because it is true, and when it is embraced, and I know this from my own life, it brings a freedom and purpose that the world can’t give.
The sacrifice is worth it, and we must support and uphold one another.
An example of freedom that spoke to my heart during the week was a beautiful older man, who had found a place on the sidewalk and was dancing on-the-spot just out of pure love and joy to praise the Lord, without fear of shame or ridicule. I told him that he was dancing for the Lord like King David. I would have loved to join him! Let’s dance in the same way out of love for the Lord and for the beauty of the family!