Youth trip turns into parish pilgrimage: St. Paul parish finds joy in trip

By Father Gerry Hurley
What a wonderful and exciting trip. Initially our trip was conceived as a plan to bring our youth to see Pope Francis, but in checking among our youth we found there was a great measure of interest among the parents, as well as other adults in our parish.
We ended up with 17 Youth and 30 Adults on a bus. The best word to describe our trip is enthusiasm. The enthusiasm of the Holy Father himself, and the delight he had in being with his people, the enthusiasm of the crowds who gathered and welcomed him, and the enthusiasm of our group in being able to be part of such an historic event.
The message that I took from the gathering was that the Holy Father was presenting one singular message, it was a message of hope, of trust, of determination. It was the message of Jesus Christ. It is the same message he preached in Rome, it was the same message he preached in Cuba, and the same message he preached here in our United States. A message of peace, and love, and freedom for all people, and an invitation to use all the resources that God has placed at our disposal for the betterment of our whole world.
I find it really ironic that the press and the media in many instances didn’t seem to get that message. They attempted to morph the Pope’s message into some form of political agenda. Their attempts showed a real lack of understanding of the length and enormity of Catholic social teaching, down through the history of the church.
There was really nothing new about the teaching, because after-all it was the teaching of Jesus Christ.  However there was something very special about the one who was presenting it. It was totally congruent with his own simple lifestyle.
One of my favorite parts was being in line for 3 hours to go through security in preparation for the Papal Mass. I was so impressed by the patience of people as they moved slowly along in the lines. There was just something so special about the integrity of that. A sense that we were really preparing for something really large – and we were – Mass with Our Holy Father presiding.
Our group told me later they decided to begin reciting the Rosary as they moved along in the line, I think they may have been a little shy about it in the beginning but as they found others joining in immediately, they were touched.
It is a small world, or so they say, in this instance we met a fellow parishioner in the midst of that whole crowd. She is a native of Philly, and she and her sister were working there helping out both of them were guiding priests to their communion stations at the Papal Mass. She knew many of our youth because she had taught them in school, and knew many of our adults because of her involvement in our parish. It was a great reunion.
It was a once in a lifetime experience, and everybody in our group felt blessed to be a part of it. The only question left now is whether we go for Dublin in 2018. (Father Hurley is the pastor of Flowood St. Paul.)