Editor’s Note: Many Diocese of Jackson families, pastors and groups attended the World Meeting of Families in Philadelphia during the Papal visit. The staff asked Group leaders and attendees to reflect on the trip. In this issue, the staff has selected excerpts from their reflections on the meeting, the Festival of Families and the Papal Mass to conclude the meeting.
Barbara Rivers, Tupelo St. James
My husband and I were married on the Feast of St Francis of Assisi. I have had a desire to see Pope Francis ever since he became Pope. We got that opportunity when we discovered that Proximo Travel was offering a tour to Philadelphia.
It was also very emotional when we joined hands and sang with Aretha Franklin “We are Family.” (at the Festival of Families) Even though we were from different places in the world, we felt like family. Philadelphia, the city where the foundations for our right to freedom of religion were laid, showed that we can be a people of hope for a broken world.
Barbara Rivers – Tupelo St. James
Cory Head, Flowood St. Paul
This was such a rare, historic event (a once-in-a-lifetime event for many) that we wanted to create the opportunity for our parish to go. As a Youth Director, it was especially important to me for the youth in our church to have every opportunity to go as possible.
The favorite part of the trip for many of us was receiving the Eucharist that had been blessed by the Holy Father.
Monica Walton, Flowood St. Paul
The message I got from the World Meeting was to celebrate life with your unique blessings, gifts, talents and personality. We are a diverse world and embracing our differences brings us together. We don’t all speak the same language but we can still communicate through our actions. I felt unity through Christ and our Catholic worship with people from across the globe.
The message I got from Pope Francis is that families are a blessing. Happiness isn’t always at the forefront. Times can be difficult. Life can be challenging. But, we can all do something to make the world better. We are all responsible for each other. He summed it up very simply….. just do the right thing. Act out of love in all we do and the world will be better place!
Linda Gamble, Jackson Christ the King
I decided to go at the last minute because as the time get closer something was pulling me to go. I think it was very spiritual because I really couldn’t afford the trip but at the end I sacrified the money and make arrangements to go. And I am so glad I did.
Also, as a bonus, I made a friend-for-life, Mary Hazlett, from Franklin, Maryland, who was my roommate at the hotel where they stayed. We had a wonderful time together touring the city, eating, and attending the different events planned for us. I hope we can travel again together, maybe to Rome?
Teresa Preuss, Jackson St. Therese
It was an incredible experience to see so many people gathered in one place, to hear his message of love and forgiveness, especially to see them so anxious to get a glimpse of the pope, to hear his message about family unity. I like the way he talks about family and the importance to be together and have an open communication with their children. All families have problems but he says that with love and communication everything can be handle in a Christian way.
Esperanza Velásquez, Jackson St. Therese
What message did you get from the Pope?
Nothing touched my heart in the most profound way than his last sermon during the Mass celebration at the closing of the World Meeting of Families 2015 taking place throughout this fantastic week in Philadelphia. There, at the Benjamin Franklin Parkway, the Holy Father expressed his concern for the family, specifically, the challenges this institution is facing in today’s dangerous world. He talked about marriage, love, and children. “I understand,” he said, “how children can be difficult some times, but talk to them with love, softly and be patient.” It has not escaped my notice the very special manner in which he loves the children, and how, in turn, the children return his genuine love. I find it so endearing. To me, Pope Francis is my Holy Father, but, for all those children, Pope Francis is a loving Holy Grandfather. Who does not love grandpa? May God guard and protect him for many years to come.
Sheila Przesmicki, Booneville St. Francis
What is your reaction to the Papal visit overall? As several people said to me, “Pope Francis is a rock star!” But he isn’t a star in the passing sense of the word. His energy, enthusiasm and “Joy” in spreading the Gospel seems to have stayed with people. He has left a positive impression on most people, whether they agree with Church teaching. His arms are mercifully open to all, with compassion and understanding, and this apparently is drawing people back to the church, even if it is in an exploratory manner.
What message did you get from the World Meeting? Families are churches, and churches are families. Within families there is joy, pain, suffering and healing. If we would remember that we are all brothers and sisters, and at the end of the day we all must live together, we might have more compassion and willingness to reach out and help each other, no matter as family, neighbors, citizens or church members.
Kim Turner, Jackson St. Richard
I traveled to Philadelphia with my husband and 5 boys, a 13 year old, two 11 year-olds, a 7 year-old and a 3 year-old.
From the World Meeting I got the message that family is so important. How you react to each other comes from the seed we start in the family.
From Pope Francis I heard we should treat all people with kindness and generosity. We should respect our grandparents and be there for our children, that families are the foundation of society.
Also on our way to the train one day we saw a priest helping a homeless man. These are the small experiences that my children will remember, they will have no question on what to do in these situations because they have seen it.
Thomas Turner, (11-years old)
I thought it was really cool and fun. The message I got was be good to each other. My favorite part of the trip was seeing him say the Mass while we were all in the streets and meeting new people
Amy Topik, Flowood St. Paul
Pope Francis’ visit was very positive, and energizing to all Christians, Catholic and Protestant. For me personally, this trip was just the spiritual renewal I needed. Pope Francis has such enthusiasm for his work, and it is evident in every word he spoke on this trip. I was so blessed to be a part of his visit.
The message I received from Pope Francis is that we are all called to be the hands and feet of Christ here on earth, no matter what our vocation is. We must be our brother’s keeper.
Since the trip I made a commitment to be more sensitive to the needs of others around me, and to pray more deeply that everyone I come in contact with can see Jesus in me through my actions.
Ana de Lange, Madison St. Francis of Assisi
We traveled as a family. My husband Aad and I, and our four children: Sophia (13), Stephan (11), Carolina (9) and María José (7). I saw it as a wonderful opportunity to nurture and to celebrate the universality of our faith.
The meeting…it surpassed my expectations. Excellent speakers addressing different topics, all relevant to our reality. The Youth Congress…the opportunities to provide service as a family to pack meals for Burkina Faso… all that was meaningful. If I were to choose a message, I would probably rephrase the words of Pope Francis: “Love is the measure of our faith.” A faith that is universal, in time and in space. Yes, the meeting itself spoke to me about the “UNIVERSALITY” of our faith. Very few times in my life I have been part of such diversity: so many nations, so many cultures, so many different backgrounds, yet all united. More than 2,000 years ago Jesus said to one of His disciples: “You are Peter, and on this rock I will build my Church” (Matthew 16,18). Those words which I had heard and read over and over, suddenly became alive when we were part of the many thousands celebrating the Eucharist together.
Aad delange, Madison St. Francis
I think this pope has a mission and a vision to be there for everyone, and try to unify.
The message I got from the World Meeting was that we should strive forstrong and solid family life, the cornerstone of society, and it should be our inspiration to get to a better world.
The message I got from Pope Francis is that there clearly is hope for the world, and it doesn’t seem to take a lot. Try to set aside differences.
Maria delange, 9-year-old
It’s good that Pope Francis came to the U.S.A. to tell people what is good and bad.
At the World Meeting I learned that it’s important to pray the rosary.
What message did you get from Pope Francis? To be nice to others.
Have you made any changes to your prayer or faith life because of the trip?
Pray and try to help poor people. I saw some living on the streets in Philadelphia. My favorite part was filling food baskets for Africa through Catholic Relief Service.
Carolina deLange, 13-year old
The message I got from the World Meeting of Families was love others. Treat others how you would want to be treated.
What message did you get from Pope Francis? We all have the duty to do good.
Stephan deLange, 11-year-old
What message did you get from the World Meeting? To go on God’s path.
What message did you get from Pope Francis? To be kind to others.
What was your favorite part of the trip? – Seeing Pope Francis.
Sophia delange, 8-year-old
What was your reaction to the trip?
It was very cool but I especially loved the meeting. The World Meeting of Families taught me so much about suffering, three-letter-word, sin. That God didn’t create bad people. He gave us freedom. And other people chose sin.
Pope Francis’ message to me is to love your family not matter what.