By Lindsay Steele
The Catholic Messenger
After spending four hours getting through security checkpoints, Sister Emily Brabham, a novice with the Sisters of St. Francis in Clinton, stood shoulder to shoulder with around 1 million people Sept. 27 on Benjamin Franklin Parkway in Philadelphia. All were waiting to celebrate Mass with Pope Francis. “It was probably the most people I’ve ever seen in one area,” she said.
Although it was a bit uncomfortable at times, celebrating Mass with so many Christians was an experience that Sr. Brabham will never forget. “The most moving moment was when we prayed the Our Father. Everyone in our area was holding hands and nobody knew each other, but we were all part of the same group, just thousands of people praying the Our Father together. It brought me to tears.”
Sr. Brabham, who works as a youth minister for a parish in the Chicago suburbs, was among 24 delegates from the Chicago area in Philadelphia last week for the World Meeting of Families.
At the event, she had the opportunity to listen to keynote speeches from Catholic leaders, as well as leaders of other faiths and denominations. The diversity in speakers “spoke to the unity Pope Francis is trying to build. (Diversity) was respected and embraced by this conference. One of the biggest responsibilities we have in life is to love God and to love our neighbor.”
Her favorite keynote speech was that of Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle, Archbishop of Manila. Cardinal Tagle spoke about welcoming people as they are — wounds and all — and walking beside them in their journey to become more holy. “It spoke to the reality of family life rather than to the ideal. … As someone who works in pastoral ministry, I always appreciate the pastoral approach.” Break-out sessions covered topics including ministering to divorced Catholics and persons with same-sex desires. Sr. Brabham hoped to attend the breakout on homosexuality but due to its popularity, the classroom was filled to capacity before she arrived.
Although the Ben Franklin Parkway was as close as Sr. Brabham would get to Pope Francis, she listened intently to his addresses throughout the week via media sources, impressed by his constant demonstrations of humility. “In all of his addresses, he reminds everyone to pray for him. It’s kind of cool. … He has this great responsibility, and other people in that position of power or influence might become less humble, but it seems like the papacy has made him more humble. Look at his busy schedule for the week … he knows he can’t do it on his own and he needs our prayers and the Holy Spirit to be with him.
“He’s not just the pope of 1.2 billion Catholics, but his influence extends further because of his mark of humility. People want to model the way he lives his life.”