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October 11, 2015 Issue

Hundreds of pilgrims from the Diocese of Peoria were among the throngs that greeted Pope Francis during his Sept. 22-27 visit to Washington, D.C., New York City, and Philadelphia.

Photo of pope by CNS/Matt Rourke; others provided by papal pilgrims

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Goosebumps and blessings: Area pilgrims home after seeing pope

The hundreds of pilgrims from the Diocese of Peoria who traveled in late September to see Pope Francis in the northeast United States are home with memories that will last a lifetime.

Jim Dingman, a trustee at Mary Our Lady of Peace Parish in Orion, tells of the “goosebumps” he felt when he and his son Ian saw Pope Francis pass by in New York City’s Central Park.

Anne Marie Brummer, a FOCUS missionary at the University of Illinois in Champaign, describes being one of tens of thousands longing for -- and receiving -- the Eucharist during the papal Mass in Philadelphia.

Deacon Terry Stalsberg of St. Joseph Parish, Roanoke, was blessed to be on the distributing end of Communion during the Mass in Philadelphia. adelphia. “I could barely say ‘The Body of Christ,’” he said, recalling experiencing waves of emotion.

And April Adams of St. Mary, Metamora, will always remember the grace that she felt in Pope Francis’ presence that made her drop to her knees on the South Lawn of the White House as she watched the ceremonies with her sisters.

Some diocesan pilgrims, like Brummer and Deacon Stalsberg, traveled in groups. Brummer was among a pilgrimage of 55 from St. John’s Catholic Newman Center at the University of Illinois --- a group that included Father Daniel Gifford and Father James Pankiewicz. They drove through the night to be present for the closing events of the World Meeting of Families in Philadelphia, including the Festival of Families and the papal Mass Sept. 26 and 27.

Deacon Stalsberg was among 13 on a trip to Philadelphia organized by his parish. “It was a once-in-a-lifetime experience,” he told The Catholic Post. “Who knows when he will be back, if ever?”

Sister Sara was present when Pope Francis address the joint session of Congress

The largest group from the diocese may have been the three buses filled by members of the Neocatechumenal Way in Peoria and the Quad Cities, an organization dedicated to the Catholic formation of adults. Accompanying them to Philadelphia was Father Chris Haake, pastor of faith communities in Dwight and Campus, who told The Catholic Post that in addition to the blessing of being in the same city as Pope Francis were wonderful experiences of prayer, and song and faith-sharing on the way to and from Pennsylvania.

Pope Francis’ messages as he attended events in Washington, D.C., New York City, and Philadelphia resonated with area pilgrims.

“His message seems so very simple -- he preaches mercy and love,” said Michaela VanDieren of St. Mary Parish in Hampton. After visiting with her daughters in Pittsburgh, she joined a bus tour to Philadelphia organized by The Catholic Review, newspaper of the Archdiocese of Baltimore.

“He focused so much on the importance of love, and bringing others together in the church, family, and school,” said Rebecca Doloski, a member of St. Patrick Parish in Seneca and a freshman at Franciscan University in Steubenville, Ohio. “It’s our mission to spread that love. It’s very inspiring to people of my age.”

“It’s amazing to see the energy he has, the gentleness of his voice, the simplicity of his words and the love that he shows for family,” said Sister Karine, a member of the Princeville-based Community of St. John who attended the World Meeting of Families with three members of her community and several novices.

Also taking part in the weeklong family conference prior to Pope Francis’ visit was Ivy Padula, director of religious education at Sacred Heart Parish in Moline. For Padula, it was very special family time -- she shared the experience with her parents, Carl and Mary-Ellen Pfieffer, and her four younger sisters, who attended the concurrent youth conference.

“At the end of the day we would talk about what we did,” said Padula, adding that she is already making family a more integral part of religious education at her parish. Once a month, family activities will be part of Sunday classes. On Oct. 18, family members are invited to join their children in making rosaries. Next month they will make Advent wreaths.

“It was great to see the families,” agreed Father Timothy Sauppe, pastor of parishes in Westville and Georgetown who also attended the World Meeting of Families. Father Sauppe missed a few days of the conference to attend the funeral in Colorado of Father Benjamin Reese, but returned in time for the weekend papal events, including concelebrating the closing Mass.

Also attending the World Meeting of Families was Father John Cyr, pastor in Bradford and Wyoming. He called the gathering and the papal visit “a refreshing time for the church in the United States.” Both Father Cyr and Father Sauppe were among the concelebrants at the closing Mass in Philadelphia.

Other papal pilgrim stories shared with The Catholic Post included that of Daniel Marcinak Jr., a sixth-grader at St. Jude School in Peoria, who was approached for a comment by NBC News while he was waiting with his brother and father to see Pope Francis near St. Matthew’s Cathedral in Washington, D.C. “It’s awesome,” Daniel told the reporter. “He’s kind. He’s humble. He’s the successor to St. Peter, and I’m honored to be in his presence.”

Sister Judith Ann Duvall, OSF, major superior of The Sisters of the Third Order of St. Francis, would agree.

“Thank you, Pope Francis, for gracing the soil of our land and our hearts with your presence,” said Sister Judith Ann, who traveled to Philadelphia with three members of her community. She described Pope Francis’ words as “warm, humble, simple and so encouraging, as if he were reaching out with his words to encircle and invite us all in, just like a loving father.”

“We felt Jesus walking among us once again,” said Sister Judith Ann, who spoke for all when she invited Pope Francis to “come back.”

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