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Locals Prepare for Pope Francis' American Visit

Sep 23, 2015

Pope Francis greets a crowd in Havana, Cuba.
Credit Tony Gentile / Associated Press

When Sister Anne Dougherty of the Franciscan Center in Tampa received a call from Congresswoman Kathy Castor inviting her to see Pope Francis in Washington DC, she almost had to pinch herself. She thought she was dreaming. 

Dougherty pointed out that some congressional members may disagree with what Pope Francis might say - referring to comments made by Arizona Rep. Paul Gosar, who says he will not see the Pope because of his stance on climate change. 

But Dougherty said that she feels that anyone can benefit from the Pope's message, despite political or religious ideology.

"To actually be in the same room with Pope Francis and hear his words of encouragement, his words of challenge, his words of compassion, his words of peace and justice, it's going to be so exciting that you'll feel his words," she said. "I think feel them even deeper in my heart and my soul to live more of the gospel life."

Dougherty hopes that Francis will reinforce his message of taking care of marginalized people and the earth.

Father Stephan Brown of St. Leo University is also going to see the Pope in Washington this week. He's taking two students with him.

Brown said that whenever there's a large religious pilgrimage, there're people in need. He said he plans to help those people. 

"We're going to be ministering to the poor - at least offering them a gift card, offering some water bottles," he said. "When someone walks up to me and says 'Hey Father, can you help me?', I don't want to say 'No, I'm busy. I'm off to mass.' I'd rather take a moment to talk with them - [to say] 'Here's something to buy food with. Here's something for your immediate need.'"

Brown  expects to hear the Pope deliver a message of hope to all Americans, especially those who've been estranged from the church. 

For Joshua Bartholomew and Emmanuel Diyoka Mulowayi, the students accompanying Brown, it'll be their first time seeing a Pope. 

"I'll remember [seeing the Pope] for the rest of my life," Diyoka Mulowayi said. "I want him to give me a message that will help me follow Christ with a deeper heart."