I spied Sr. Mary Michael and her companions striding down Arch Street toward the convention center. “We came here to volunteer and work with the youth. We were asked if we could come up because we’re teachers who enjoy and know how to work with children,” Sr. Mary Michael said. The sparkle in her ocean-blue eyes told me she found joy in her vocation.
“We were happy to oblige. I’ve taught five to 85,” she said with a laugh. “There are 30 of us who’ve come up and others will come when the pope comes.”
Like Gina and me, Sr. Mary Michael said she’s been touched by the friendliness of the Philadelphians who have opened their city and their hearts to this massive gathering of the Catholic faithful. Everywhere we’ve been, people have been more than happy to take pictures of us or give us directions.
“The park rangers, the hotel staff, the people on the street, on the bus, on the train, even on the way up here,” Sr. Mary Michael said, have been kind and helpful. “When we stop at Hardee’s or Arby’s or a gas station, they say, ‘Are you going to see the pope?’ and we said yes, but they weren’t Catholic. There’s such a buzz. And then here in Philly, everyone has been so lovely. They have said, ‘We’re so glad you’re here.’ That has been a great joy for me.
Of course, it’s hard not to notice the 30 nuns dressed in their beautiful long, white, Dominican habits as they walk the streets of this bustling city on the first day of autumn. The sky is overcast and for Phoenicians at least, it’s a bit chilly. Does Sister think her Dominican habit is an open invitation for people to speak with her about God? After all, nobody asked Gina and me if we were here to see the pope.
“Absolutely, she said. That’s the beauty of the habit,” she said. “It’s that outward sign that I’m here for the Lord and I’m here for you. The Lord has blessed us tremendously and with that comes great responsibility and the call to fidelity.”
Amazingly, she mentioned she has friends in the Diocese of Phoenix. Of course, among 18,000 people, we were hoping to run into someone from our diocese, so this was a neat connection. She said she knows Ryan Hanning, an official at University of Mary-Tempe. Ryan is here with his wife and eight children and we’re hoping to see him as the week continues.
Follow Joyce Coronel on Twitter at @JoyceCoronel.