The story behind Pope Francis’ upcoming visit to Philadelphia

“The family which experiences the joy of faith communicates it naturally.  That family is the salt of the earth and the light of the world; it is the leaven of society.”
Pope Francis, October 27, 2013

On November 17, 2014, Pope Francis announced that he would travel to the United States for the 2015 World Meeting of Families in D.C., New York City, and Philadelphia.  What is this meeting all about?  Its main purpose can become lost amidst the excitement and intrigue of one of the world’s most compelling figures coming to the United States.

Twenty-one years ago, Pope Saint John Paul II created a “World Meeting of Families” event to be held every three years.  Each world meeting has a theme that helps enliven the meeting, giving new dimensions to the meaning of the family.  This year’s meeting theme is “Love is Our Mission: The Family Fully Alive.”  There has been a preparatory catechesis published by Our Sunday Visitor for the World Meeting of Families, which “explains how all of Catholic teaching about sex, marriage, and the family flows from our basic beliefs about Jesus.”

Pope Francis’ upcoming trip to the U.S. has made waves not only among Catholics but also among people from all different walks of life.  According to the official website of the World Meeting of Families, over 90 different newspapers, online publications, and other media outlets have covered stories about Pope Francis’ visit.  Conversation around our own campus has been growing as well.

Senior Becca Self told the Rover, “Pope Francis is one of the most popular and attractive figures in the world, and the Catholic Church’s teachings on the family are some of the least popular ideas in the world (at least in the West).  Likewise, Notre Dame is one of the most beloved and renowned universities in the nation, and also one of the most embattled, scorned, and misunderstood.  Pope Francis, like we all are at Notre Dame, is in a position to heal, unify, and enlighten our communities regarding the Church’s family-related doctrines.

“I’m not able to travel to see him, which I may regret for the rest of my life, but what I will do is read, and even more importantly, pray,” Self continued.

“I’ll pray that the magnitude of these events touches hearts and minds that might currently be closed to the idea that the Church has anything helpful to say.  I’ll pray that American Catholics are inspired and edified by Francis’ fidelity.  I’ll pray in particular for this trip to offer grace and wisdom to engaged couples.  My beloved and I are preparing for the marathon of marriage in a climate that often feels like a hurricane.  Perhaps Pope Francis, and all the pilgrims who carry their experiences back from the visit, can help us find the eye of the storm.”

Stephanie Vance, who will be travelling to Philadelphia with her three children—all under the age of three—and her husband, a Notre Dame doctoral student in political science, shared her perspective on the Pope’s visit with the Rover.

“We are very excited and know that even though it may be difficult, chaotic and busy, it is an event that we simply cannot miss,” Vance said.  “As a mom, it’s important to instill the faith in my children, and what better way could there be than bringing them to an event with thousands of other Catholic families as well as our Holy Father?

“My husband and I have been reading the book Love is our Mission with our small group that meets every week,” Vance said of her preparation for the trip.  “We’re a group of young professionals and married couples who meet to discuss different aspects of our Catholic faith, as well as to pray together.  It covers many topics, but in a succinct way, and provides so much information on our faith, what we believe and how we can live it out.”  Vance concluded, “The best advice I have received from it is that we need to be in community with other Catholics to truly live our faith and bring Christ to the world.”

For those unable to travel to Philadelphia, there are other ways in which to “be there.”  These include praying for the fruits of this world meeting, following the daily news, reading Love is Our Mission, and spreading the word that Pope Francis, an important world figure, will be visiting our country.

The Rover will offer direct media coverage and interviews straight from Philadelphia in our first issue following the papal visit.

Crystal Avila is a junior studying Film and Television.  She is beyond excited to see Pope Francis in Philadelphia.  The last time she saw him was during Holy Week in 2013.  If you want to hear one of her many “Pope and Rome” stories, contact her at