Members of the Saint Leo University and Saint Leo Abbey returned from trips of a lifetime to see Pope Francis on his U.S. visit to Washington, DC, and Philadelphia.

Photo: Tiffany Fettig, right, Class of '16, with her friend, Sarah McMahon, await Pope Francis in Philadelphia at the Festival of Families. Photo provided by Tiffany Fettig.

Father Stephan Brown, SVD, assistant to the president, University Ministry, accompanied Joshua Bartholomew, '17, and Emmanuel D. Mulowayi, graduate assistant in the MBA program to Washington, DC. Also making the journey to the nation's capital was Abbot Isaac J. Camacho, OSB, '95, and Brother Lucius Amarillas.

Traveling to Philadelphia to see "Papa," were Tiffany Fettig, '16, and Dr. Marc Pugliese, an assistant professor of religion and theology in Virginia, who works with the Diocese of Richmond (VA).

"I don't think I've ever seen that many people gathered in one place," Dr. Pugliese said. "The crowd for Mass stretched from the Philadelphia Art Museum to City Hall, which is about eight city blocks. It was a very powerful experience.

Photo: Pope Francis greets the crowd in Philadelphia. Photo by Gabriel Pugliese.

"In his homily Pope Francis used Mark 9:38—43,45,47-48 to speak about openness to God's spirit and work in all people and places (not just in "our group"), faith acted out as faithfulness in both the small things as well as the 'big' things, and the now familiar themes of social justice and family," Dr. Pugliese continued. "It was my youngest son's (Gabriel) ninth birthday, and Gabe got a great picture of the pope as he was closest to us during the procession."

Fettig staked out her spot early Saturday morning on the Benjamin Franklin Parkway in order to see and hear Pope Francis at the Festival of the Families event later Saturday

evening. She described her time in Philadelphia and seeing the pope as "mind-blowing," as quoted in the Johnson County Daily Journal, her hometown newspaper in Indiana.

Photo: Emmanuel D. Mulowayi and Joshua Bartholomew wait to see Pope Francis in Washington, DC.

Mulowayi and Bartholomew agree that the experience of seeing Pope Francis in Washington, DC, was amazing, and they appreciated his message of humility and caring for others. Father Stephan, Mulowayi, and Bartholomew joined U.S. Congressman Gus Bilirakis for prayer following the pope's address to Congress.

Photo: Brother Lucius Amarillas and Abbot Isaac J. Camacho, OSB, '95, in Washington, DC.

News coverage of the treks of Saint Leo University community members included the following: