A celebration of family


The World Meeting of Families is just two weeks away, with the highlight being a visit to Philadelphia by Pope Francis.

The community at Our Lady of Calvary is planning something special for this weekend, in anticipation of what’s surely to take the city and region by storm from Sept. 22–27.

“We’re trying to do something to get our people excited for the pope’s visit, the Festival of Families and the papal Mass,” said the Rev. John Babowitch, pastor at Our Lady of Calvary.

Our Lady of Calvary, at 11024 Knights Road, will celebrate a special outdoor Mass on Sunday, Sept. 13, at 10:30 a.m. The principal celebrant will be Bishop Robert P. Maginnis, auxiliary bishop emeritus of Philadelphia.

“His words will probably be on family life, that will probably be the main focus of his homily,” Babowitch said.

A two-block procession of clergy and families will begin at 10:15 at Mulligan Funeral Home on Knights Road. It will include a student-created banner for the World Meeting of Families. Babowitch and his parochial vicars, the Revs. William Kirk and Kevin Mulligan, will concelebrate the Mass, and will be assisted by Our Lady of Calvary deacons Michael Bell and John Teson.

The St. Jude Shop will be providing the altar, tabernacle, lectern and statue of Mary.

“It will be a very uplifting liturgy,” Babowitch said. “It will be a celebration of family life at Our Lady of Calvary.”

A block party will follow until 4 p.m. in the school parking lot, and the public is invited to both events.

“The whole parish is really enthused about this event,” Babowitch said. “It will be a nice event for the whole parish family to be together.”

Though tents will be set up to keep people out of the sun and dry in case of rain, Babowitch said, “We’re praying for nice weather. A gorgeous day would be icing on the cake.”

The pastor said one highlight will be the parish’s musical ensemble, directed by Sara Volpe, which will join with a special choir of adults and students to lead the congregation in song.

“There will be wonderful music for the Mass. It will be very uplifting,” he said.

The block party will feature music, food, games, three Moonbounces, a face-painter, a photo booth, a magician and activities for all ages. Wristbands cost $3, and are required for food and beverages.

“A number of people have volunteered. They are a vital part of putting this whole thing together. A lot of people are involved to make this a big event,” Babowitch said. “We have a very active parish, and I credit our wonderful parishioners. I just steer the wheel.”

The pastor singled out longtime principal Sister Mildred, vice principal Jeanne Costello, Home and School Association president Terri Olenski and the stewardship committee’s Lorraine Litvinas, along with Korinne Jacob, Debbi Podsiedlak, Marie McCullough, Mike and Amy Bell, John and Julie Teson, Peg Wierzbicki, Walt Blatz, Joe OIivieri and Patrick and Patricia Cahill.

“The amount of people who responded has been great,” said parish administrative assistant Kathy Smith.

Our Lady of Calvary has received 425 reserved, standing-room-only tickets to distribute to parishioners for the Mass celebrated by Pope Francis on Sunday, Sept. 27, outside the Philadelphia Museum of Art.

The parish received the same number of tickets for the Festival of Families, which will take place on the Benjamin Franklin Parkway on Saturday night, Sept. 26. Italian tenor Andrea Bocelli will perform for Pope Francis, who will address the crowd.

Babowitch expects the faithful to embrace the pope because of his focus on the poor and needy.

“Pope Francis sets off such a magnetism. People are excited to see him for all he’s done in the world,” he said.

Babowitch, a Kensington native who attended Visitation BVM and North Catholic, has been in the priesthood for 18 years. He spent seven years as an assistant at St. Barnabas in Southwest Philadelphia, then two years as vocation director for the Archdiocese of Philadelphia before returning as pastor at St. Barnabas for 6½ years. He was assigned to Our Lady of Calvary in December 2013.

The pastor believes the six-day period consisting of the World Meeting of Families and the visit by Pope Francis will be an exciting and meaningful experience.

“I’ve been excited about this since they announced the pope was coming,” he said. “I hope the whole experience brings people to be in love with Christ again.”

For more information about Sunday’s Mass and block party, call Kathy Smith at 215–637–7515. ••


Preparing for the pope: Our Lady of Calvary will host an outdoor Mass and block party this Sunday. Above, Rev. John Babowitch, pastor of Our Lady of Calvary, holds up a banner handmade for the pope’s visit, with Bell sisters (from left) Rachel, 16, Madeline, 13, and Emily. MARIA S. YOUNG / TIMES PHOTO