Jessie Hietpas had the opportunity to go see Pope Francis in Philadelphia in September, and this is her story.

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My friend Debbie and I traveled to Philadelphia with 110 people to see the Pope this year with our Green Bay Diocesan paper, “The Compass.” We spent 3 days at the World Meeting of Families, which happens every 3 years in different parts of the world. It places great emphasis on the importance and sacredness of our families. Every one of us belongs to a family. It was the reason for the Pope coming to the United States. As the Pope’s motorcade went by us on Saturday and Sunday, we saw him from 10 feet away and we were thrilled to be a part of all the excitement.
We were among the 20,000 people attending this convention. We saw so many priests and so many different orders of nuns from around the world – many of them young nuns and priests. We heard awesome speakers and went to many different shrines and churches where our Bishop Ricken celebrated Mass for us. He was of course a great spiritual leader and lots of fun to be with. On one evening at our hotel, Bishop Ricken arranged for St. Gianna Molla’s daughter to speak to us. St. Gianna died a week after giving birth to this daughter. We feel very honored to have been with this saint’s daughter. For St. Gianna Molla’s story, read this.
It was all about family. There are too many messages to remember and pass on, but I would like to mention just a few.
Cardinal Tagle – “Everyone is wounded. Everyone. A home is where wounded hearts come together. Our homes should be privileged places of comfort. Let’s help each other in our homes. God’s healing power will be there to help us.”
Pastor Rick Warren, author of “The Purpose Driven Life” – “As my dad was dying, he kept saying ‘One more soul for Jesus…one more soul for Jesus.’” Do we care that much about the souls of those around us? Does it matter if we talk more about earthly things than we do about how much God loves us?
Archbishop Villegas – A woman asked what she and her husband should do about their children who grew up saying their prayers and being brought to Mass each week, and yet, as adults, do not practice their faith. He responded, “Parents and Grandparents, yes, you should teach the children their prayers, and bring them to Mass and teach them the faith. But those are just the necessary structures. Most importantly you need to teach them to have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. Teach them to always go to Jesus and have him as their best friend.” As I was discussing this with some men later on it brought humorous responses. “Hey, I always tell my wife that she is my best friend. I don’t know how she is going to like to hear that Jesus is supposed to take her spot”. “My wife does all my laundry. I kind of think that until Jesus starts doing my laundry, I might have to think this over.” Oh boy!
Let’s remind each other to go to Jesus as our best friend. We can talk to him whenever we want. Nobody else can be ‘everything’ for us. Jesus as our best friend is a life changer!
Pope Francis in so many different ways reminded us of the importance of family. “Families should be treated as an opportunity, rather than a problem. Life can become empty without the warmth of home.” “Holiness is always tied to little gestures. Little gestures are learned at home, in the family. They are the quiet things done by mothers and grandmothers, by fathers and grandfathers, by children. They are little signs of tenderness, affection and compassion.”
He also told us, “The family is beautiful, but there’s effort involved and there ARE problems. Families fight, children can be headaches…and mother-in-laws?!” As the pope laughed at this, so did we.
God has placed each of us in our particular family. As we ask Him, He will give us the love and forgiveness that we need to get past divisions. We are being called to live in peace, no matter what. We need to trust that God will take care of our messes and that we are called to just take good care of each other.
The Pope loves freely. His friends come from all walks of life – not just Catholics and those who ‘do it all right’. He is friends with everyone. Let’s do the same and love each person that crosses our path. Let’s share our stories, let’s discuss, let’s dialogue. In doing that, the Holy Spirit can work in us and in those around us. What a deal! Life actually becomes much easier when we can just love God and love those around us.

In Christ,
Jessie Hietpas