A Novice’s Adventure to See Pope Francis

September 30, 2015

By Sister Patricia Anne, Sister of Mercy novice

During Pope Francis’ historic visit to the United States, seven Sisters of Mercy novices were invited to attend the canonization Mass of Junipero Serra, held on September 23 at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington, D.C.

Pope Francis entering the basilica—a Mercy novice was able to snap this incredible picture!

Pope Francis entering the basilica—a Mercy novice was able to snap this incredible picture!

When I heard the news that I was to be in attendance for the pope’s visit to Washington, D.C., I was elated. I had just been received into the Mercy community as a novice when I received the phone call from my incorporation minister, Sister Jill Weber. What great news this was to share with my local community.

Spring forward now to the day of departure for Washington D.C. We gathered and headed for the airport; everyone was abuzz and excited to catch even the smallest glimpse of Pope Francis the next day. Once we arrive in Washington we are greeted warmly by the sisters in the local area and housed for the evening. With their warm hospitality everyone settled in for the evening. I have to admit I managed to be awake later than usual due to the upcoming excitement that the next day was to bring! I knew that the day was to be long, but for me this was going to be a once-in-a-lifetime event. After all, how often do you get to stand in the presence of the current pontiff?   

Seven Sisters of Mercy novices who attended the canonization Mass. Sister Patricia Anne is in the second row, far left, next to Sisters Phuong, Debbie-Ann and Colleen. Front row, from left: Sisters Danielle, Marjorie and Jennifer.

Seven Sisters of Mercy novices who attended the canonization Mass. Sister Patricia Anne is in the second row, far left, next to Sisters Phuong, Debbie-Ann and Colleen. Front row, from left: Sisters Danielle, Marjorie and Jennifer.

As we met the bus that took us to our destination I began to get nervous. We stood in security lines to be checked for any contraband before we could enter the Basilica of the National Shrine.  As we entered the sectioned-off gates, it was like entering Walt Disney World for the first time as a kid. I had that excited, nervous feeling in the pit of my innermost being. Once inside the basilica we promptly took our seats. We were early, and it was going to be a long wait, but we knew it was well worth the wait.

But, wait, there was more! The hours ticked by till Pope Francis arrived at the Basilica, and we learned that he would walk down the center aisle, to which several of us novices have “front row” seating! You could feel the energy inside the basilica rise, and that is when I decided to soak up every microsecond of his presence. As the doors opened and Pope Francis stepped into the center aisle of the basilica the attendees erupted into cheers and greetings.  I was not at a bird’s eye view to catch great photo opportunities, but I was at a great vantage point to see Pope Francis smile that bright smile and wave to all of us and look into his eyes as he moved down the aisle of the basilica.

How close were the novices to Pope Francis? This close!

How close were the novices to Pope Francis? This close!

It was then that I was able to finally feel a sense of great awe.  We talk so much about standing on the shoulders of greatness with the sisters who have gone before us, but this was the best time for me to actually feel that I “get it.”  I am living in a time where I have access to a pastor who is human, who is holy, who has struggled, but who also kept moving forward.  As I reflect on this moment in time I am also struck by the ability of Catherine McAuley—founder of the Sisters of Mercy—to be human and holy; to have dealt with struggle and to have kept moving forward. I thought as I was standing in the pew that Catherine McAuley was there with us. We were indeed being passed the torch to carry forward the Gospel of Jesus to those in the margins.  We, too, were putting one foot in front of another and moving forward, just like Pope Francis stated in his homily that day.

Pope Francis for me is not a “rock star” as some might portray him to be; he is the lead shepherd of our Universal Church and to have the privilege and grace to be able to be in attendance at the basilica was pure gift for me personally.

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  1. Rose Marie Tresp

    Thanks for this wonderful sharing. What a great adventure!


  2. Michelle Salois, RSM

    so glad you received this grace!


  3. Lee Ann McNally, RSM

    Patti, what a wonderful experience and a wonderful sharing of it with the rest of us. Thank you for letting us into the excitement with you. It resurrected inside me the thrill of getting to se. Pope John Paul II in person so I’m doubly thankful for your reflections.


  4. Martha Meyer, RSM

    Thanks so much, Patti, for sharing your reflection with all of us. You have received a wonderful gift.
    Martha Meyer


  5. Fran Repka,rsm

    Thank you for sharing your visit with all of us. It was a treat to see your smiling faces again!
    What a precious moment with such a human, holy man such as Pope Francis!


  6. Renee Yann, RSM

    So delighted for you. Thanks for sharing your blessing!


  7. JUdith M. Edwards

    Patti,

    So grateful that you shared how meaningful the opprtunity was for you. I sensed your joy and

    gratitude as you shared your story. I am also grateful that I had the oppotunity to meet you during

    your short stay in Savannah, GA.

    Judith.


  8. jeanne marie kienast,rsm

    patti, so thrilled you had this wonderful experience! I thought “as always Patti is prepared to see and find God’s message.” You truly are “Mercy”. Blessings!


  9. Denise Sausville, RSM

    Thank you for sharing your awesome experience. I felt like I was right there with the crowd, feeling his presence as he walked down the aisle. You and your cohorts were great representatives for us!


  10. Rose Marie Golembiewski

    Dear Patti, I am so very proud of you. Your deep and warm reflection was very deep and true from the heart. It will be great to see you even for a little while. So glad all ejoyed the candy.Maybe more will be coming.???
    I am at The Little Sisters on Monday until 6:30 p.m. The next Team is there.

    Let us pray for vocations.
    In Mercy,Rose Marie