Papal Visit Preview: A mission of love

BILL ACHUFF / FOR THE TIMES

Devout Catholics do not have to travel to the Benjamin Franklin Parkway for a glimpse of Pope Francis during The World Meeting of Families festival next week.

There’s plenty of opportunity to witness the historic occasion right here at home.

Various Catholic churches throughout the Northeast are planning an array of celebrations, viewing parties and special prayer services to commemorate the weeklong celebration leading up to the Papal Mass on the Parkway on Sept. 27.

“I think everyone certainly is excited about it,” said the Rev. Michael Olivere of St. Timothy Parish at Levick and Battersby streets. “I think people would be excited in general, but Pope Francis has a special magnetism and charisma that draws people to him. The very fact that he’s coming here, to Philadelphia, is really exciting people.”

Like many local churches, St. Timothy will host a special viewing of the Papal Mass, scheduled for 4 p.m. on Sunday, Sept. 27, in its chapel. Afterward, there will be a pizza party with T-shirts and even a life-sized cutout of Pope Francis, so congregants can have their photo taken with the Holy Father.

“A lot of people are senior citizens and may not be able to stand for long periods of time,” said Olivere. “So, we’re providing something else. It’s nice for people to come together and view this. It’s an important moment for the churches in Philadelphia and the city itself.”

Christ the King (3252 Chesterfield Road) will have a big-screen television showing the Papal Mass live, as well as St. Jerome (8100 Cofax St.). St. Dominic will have a live simulcast on a 70-inch screen in Marian Hall (8532 Frankford Ave.) and serve coffee and cake afterward. Our Lady of Consolation (7053 Tulip St.) will open its doors at 3 p.m. for a public viewing of the Papal Mass. Parishioners are encouraged to bring a potluck for a community dinner afterward.

“The Catholic Church is a family, and families gather for special events,” said the Rev. Mark Kunigonis, pastor at St. Jerome. “This is a family event. For those who cannot get downtown to see the Holy Father, they can gather here with the St. Jerome family.”

For others who might be willing to join the crowds downtown, some local churches are also offering tickets to parishioners on a first-come-first-serve basis — including Our Lady of Ransom (6700 Roosevelt Blvd.) and Our Lady of Calvary (11024 Knights Road).

Maternity BVM, 9220 Old Bustleton Ave., has organized two buses that will travel to the Mass itself. Christine Regan, parish coordinator, also encourages members of the church community to host their own viewing parties.

“You have Sunday viewing parties every week for football. Why not have a Sunday table-Mass with your fellow parishioners and watch the Mass with your parish family?” Regan suggested.

Maternity BVM has announced a “Family Hour” and benediction, scheduled for Wednesday, Sept. 23, in its lower chapel at 6:30 p.m.

“We invited our school families and parish families,” said Regan. “This is a big family spiritual event — a night where we’re emphasizing traditional families, but also parish families. We want to incorporate everybody and connect with parishioners.”

St. Anselm has had a shrine displayed throughout the month of September, entitled “Mary, our Blessed Mother, Undoer of Knots.” The Rev. William Chiriaco explained the idea behind the shrine is to encourage congregants to give Mary the knots in their lives, whether physical, emotional or mental. They can ask the Blessed Mother to help untie the knots in their lives.

“The idea is that Mary can help in a divine nature or someone earthy can come to their aid, perhaps a doctor,” said Chiriaco. “Whether material, spiritual or medical, someone comes to their aid by virtue of these prayers.”

Ribbons have been distributed throughout the month of September. Parishioners are encouraged to write their request to Mary, tie the ribbon in a knot, and leave it on the Blessed Mother altar in St. Anselm’s chapel. The devotion will culminate during the Papal Mass.

“This is a devotion that Pope Francis is really behind,” said Chiriaco. “To have the leader of the Catholic Church coming to your city, that’s such a great source of pride. It gives support for the church, parishioners as well as clergy. He’s here to support us.” ••

BILL ACHUFF / FOR THE TIMES

The great outdoors: Above, Bishop Robert Maginnis was the main celebrant of an outdoor Mass held at Our Lady of Calvary on Sunday. BILL ACHUFF / FOR THE TIMES