Even a few weeks later, I’m still amazing how this Sept. 25-27 trip to see Pope Francis came together. The original plan had been to board the bus with Latino community from St. Francis Chapel early Sunday and return early Monday. Our formator, Father Tom Carzon, and a few of the professed brothers did take the bus. But one of the newest postulants, Jeremy, has known Father Jaehwa Lee in the Philadelphia area and contacted him. He knew of an available apartment within the car-free zone in downtown Philadelphia and offered to keep the minivan at his parish outside the city.
Sometimes, Father Lee visited the Korean community in Fort Lee, New Jersey. We picked him up there on Sept. 25, and he guided us into Philadelphia. We had arrived after 6 p.m., when the roadblocks around downtown became effective. Jeremy and the priest dropped us off a block outside the perimeter. They went to park the car outside town. Leland, Joel, Brenden, Colin and I walked into the perimeter. Uber was allowed to operate in the perimeter until 2 a.m. After one failed attempt, Joel found another car and the driver dropped us off at the apartment building.
Monica Hyun and Jacob Huh, a married couple whom Jeremy knew from Boston, met us with the key to the apartment. The couple renting the apartment was currently in Korea and allowed others to use it.
Monica and Jacob had lunch with us at a pizzeria down the street. It’s a pleasure chatting with them. They even invited us to breakfast the next day. Meanwhile, Leland continued finding old acquaintances on our road trips down the East Coast. This time, it was a priest from Pittsburgh, who was passing our outdoor eating area.
Father Lee had also put us in contact with Christine, a leader of the Catholic community at one of the colleges, where he has been a chaplain. She had suggested to Leland about meeting her and her boyfriend at a Capogiro Gelato Artisans nearby. The five of us said good night to Monica and Jacob and walked to the shop.
Walking through downtown Philadelphia under a car ban was interesting. National Guard troops were stationed every few blocks. Streets became pedestrian malls. But one must be careful of cyclists and police vehicles. We met Christine and Mickey at the shop. The offerings reminded me of those at Coffee Waves in Corpus Christi, Texas. I went with a scoop of pistachio and a scoop of peanut butter. The plan had been to walk around downtown Philadelphia. But we stayed at the shop and chatted. Toward 10 p.m., we bid Christine and Mickey farewell and returned to the apartment.
The next day, we went to Monica and Jacob’s place after morning Mass. Jeremy took this selfie during our walk.
At the apartment, Monica and Jacob astounded us with their generosity. There were pancakes, omelets, fruits, juice and coffee. She outwitted Jeremy when he offered to clean up. No seminarian was going to work for his breakfast that morning.
Lunch, however, was another matter. Monica suggested making our lunches. She prepared a few sandwich bags with protein bars and Hershey kisses inside. The ingredients kept coming out for sandwiches, fruit and dessert (cookies and chips). (How do they manage to store all this stuff in their apartment?) We created an assembly line on the table. My sandwich bag provided me with dinner Saturday evening and a snack on Sunday.
Sunday evening after the papal Mass, we boarded the train to Paoli. Father Lee met us with the minivan. We dropped him off at the parish and zipped back to Boston.
Seeing the pope was amazing. But meeting the people who helped us was just as huge. They connected us to the place we visit. This couldn’t happen without Jeremy. He stepped up to make a few calls and plan the logistics.
Up next: Audio books on the trip.