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There were months of build-up, then two intense and amazing days, and now the papal visit of 2015 to Philadelphia is history. But most Philadelphians, I believe, are still feeling a deep sense of inspiration and uplift from the experience of this truly amazing visitor, Pope Francis.
We witnessed his personal acts of mercy — his time with persons in a homeless shelter in Washington, DC; his gathering with prisoners here in Philadelphia; his outreach to and advocacy for immigrants; his embrace of persons with disabilities, his sweet welcome of children.
We heard his challenge – to build truly inclusive communities, especially with those on the margins; to use our political system to work for the common good; to resist the false gods of wealth and materialism; to build true justice with dignity for those who are poor.
One of the moments from the visit that left the strongest make on me was Pope Francis’s homily at the Basilica at the beginning of his Philadelphia visit on Saturday morning. He built his reflections around the question: “What about you? What are you going to do?” Those are the questions that are lingering with me in the wake of the papal visit. And they are urgent questions. The Pope is back in Rome, and the struggles and needs of our city are still with us. Countless people in our community are still suffering from poverty, addiction, homelessness, abuse and violence.
Several months ago, Archbishop Charles Chaput stated his deep hope that the visit of the Holy Father would be transformative for the Church and for our city. And without doubt, Pope Francis’s two days in Philadelphia were profoundly moving and inspiring for so many people.
But the Pope is not a Superman who can wave a magic wand and make the transformation happen (as he would surely be the first to assert). Seeds of transformation have been sown – but it is up to us to bring those seeds to fruition.
“What about you? What are you going to do?” It’s up to each one of us personally to commit to action. And as each one of us answers that question, we come together as a community, what Jon Bon Jovi calls the Power of We. As Pope Francis said in that homily, we need “to find ways of sharing [our] enthusiasm and gifts with our communities, above all in works of mercy and concern for others.”
Let the legacy of Pope Francis’s time in Philadelphia be our renewed commitment to working to end homelessness and poverty in our city. The seed has been planted – let us now be the agents of real transformation.
Previously from Sr. Mary Scullion: How we’re prepping Philly’s homeless for the Pope and what more can be done