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A unified experience

Loretta D’Angelo says a prayer during a moment of silence on Sunday. MELISSA YERKOV / TIMES PHOTO

As Pope Francis gave his homily during Sunday’s Papal Mass on Benjamin Franklin Parkway, pilgrims at Holy Family University listened intently. They may not have been amidst the action downtown, but still embraced his message in the company of family.

The university’s Northeast campus, at 9801 Frankford Ave., showed a live stream of Sunday’s Papal Mass in its Education and Technology Center. Approximately 60 people gathered to witness the historic event, capping off the weeklong World Meeting of Families celebration.

“I wanted with all of my heart to be there. I love this pope. But I knew that I wouldn’t get very far because of my foot,” said Loretta D’Angelo, whose right foot was injured and in a cast. “I saw that Holy Family was going to show the Mass. I wanted to join and watch it in a family, unified experience. I wanted to share it with God’s family. It made all of the difference. While I was sitting here in prayer, it was so much more moving to share it with other people.”

Small signs of love were evident throughout the Northeast auditorium — some held hands, some leaned on each other’s shoulders, others bowed their heads in prayer. Although they were just 15 miles away from the Parkway, many attendees expressed gratitude for the opportunity to celebrate locally.

“I had a ticket to the Papal Mass, but I gave it away. I’m so glad that I did,” said Ed Rice, a Glen Foerd board member who is active with the East Torresdale Civic Association. “I wanted to be here. Just how the people are responding and how energized Pope Francis is… it’s been incredible.”

Christina and Chris Dymek watched the live stream at Holy Family with their 14-month-old daughter, Amelia. Originally from Tacony, the family has since moved to Ewing, New Jersey, but wanted to watch the Papal Mass among friends. They joined their aunt and uncle, Alan and Kitty Szynal.

“We wanted to watch it with other people and knew the area. We couldn’t go downtown with her, so this was perfect for us,” said Chris, referring to Amelia.

“I think it’s been very inspiring — this whole experience,” added Christina. “He is in a highly visible position and using it to visit prisons, house the homeless and help the sick. He’s reaching out to real people.”

The live stream of the Papal Mass was an unofficial grand finale to the weeklong celebration at Holy Family University. As sponsors of the World Meeting of Families — alongside The Sisters of the Holy Family of Nazareth — the university had a significant presence downtown, but also strived to represent that spirit at its Northeast campus as well.

Holy Family hosted an International Day of Peace and a World Meeting of Families Service Day that included projects for Aid for Friends and a Catholic Social Services backpack drive for needy children. More than 175 backpacks were collected for the program with an additional pick-up scheduled. There were also lectures, a clothing swap and a meditation group.

On Wednesday, Sept. 23, the university hosted a panel discussion, “The Impact of Disability on Families.” The event was implemented by two special education faculty members, Dr. Gerry Arango and Dr. Claire Sullivan. Consultants from Pennsylvania’s Education for All Coalition (PEAC) also attended, both of them parents of children with disabilities.

“We thought it was an important topic to talk about. Often, I think, when it comes to disabilities, the focus is on those who have the disability,” said Kevin Zook, dean of education at Holy Family University. “Often, the family that they live with and function with doesn’t get enough attention as they should. These are the people who also live with it day in and day out. They are impacted directly.”

There were three presentations during the event, followed by an open discussion on the impact of disability on families. A self-advocate, who has Down syndrome, spoke about himself and his experiences, providing further insight.

“It was extremely inspiring and uplifting to hear how centered these families are,” said Zook. “In the midst of it all, they are joyful in caring for their children.”

The weeklong schedule of events concluded with the public viewing of the Papal Mass. Holy Family president Sister Maureen McGarrity explained how the university strived to embrace the World Meeting of Families theme: “Love Is Our Mission: The Family Fully Alive.”

“Showing the Papal Mass here was a natural thing to do. We knew that everyone couldn’t be downtown. We were committed to having a World Meeting of Families presence here on campus,” said Sister McGarrity. “When we emphasize family, there are so many differences from so many walks of life, but it all comes together in a family.” ••

Celebrating with the family: Holy Family University, 9801 Frankford Ave., organized a variety of events to celebrate the World Meeting of Families last week, including a live stream of the Papal Mass. MELISSA YERKOV / TIMES PHOTO

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