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Sisters Sharon Dillon, Kimberly Mulhearn, and Shannon Fox Share their Experience of the Visit of Pope Francis to Washington, DC

Join members of the SSJ-TOSF as they recount their once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to participate in Pope Francis' visit to the United States in September 2015. Below, you will find stories and photos of their experiences.

Walk with Pope Francis

The invitation, Walk with Pope Francis, was sent via the USCCB to all Americans. The Academy of the Holy Cross, where I work, took it very seriously and I sent the invite out to you, our sisters and associates, and it was posted on the Website.

In the months prior to the arrival of Pope Francis, Sister Shannon had contacted me, sharing that she has a friend who works Secret Service for President Obama and that she might be able to get tickets to the Presidential Visit with Pope Francis. I let Shannon know that at that time I did not have any tickets and I had contacted those individuals I knew with connections, but of course that she and Sister Kim could come and stay with me. I also invited them to #walkwithFrancis, and to speak with my students, in the Juniors Sacrament Classes, about their experience. I encouraged Kim and Shannon to purchase their plane tickets while the prices were low, and that I had a good feeling that things were going to work out...

Time passed and there was still no word on tickets. But then, just a few weeks prior to the event, I received a beautiful invite from the Archdiocese of Washington, DC, offering me tickets, and Kim and Shannon received tickets to the West Lawn from their Mayor in Wheaton, IL. It seemed as though this were all destined to occur.

The following are some of our photos and sharing of the wonderful events in DC.

~Sister Sharon Dillon

The Pope Visits Washington, DC: Sister Kimberly Mulhearn

The Papal Mass was an experience I will remember for the rest of my life. I know and expect that a Papal Mass will be High Church. However, in that, the Pope in his simplistic ways, kept it simple. He kept it about the message and not the messenger. His message continues to echo in my head and heart; "What can we to do keep our hearts from going numb?" "Go out and tell the good news without judgement" and "Let us keep moving forward." How do we answer these questions? How do we carry out his message? The answers I do not have...just more questions. Know that all of you were with me during these days and events.

We were so close to the altar, it was amazing!!

The incensing of the altar Above is a picture of the ticket Shannon and I (Kim) received for the West Lawn on the Capitol. The tickets were given to us by Mike Grezsk, who is the Mayor of Wheaton, IL and is also the Development Director at Clare Woods Academy. He received them from Congressman Roskam.

Papal Visit: Sister Shannon Fox

Having had the opportunity to attend both the Papal Mass and to be on the lawn of the Capital during the Holy Father's address to Congress, I was struck by the compassion and hope contained in the Pope’s message. He was consistently on the side of the poor.

I was also touched by the diversity and inclusivity represented within the events, most especially the Mass itself. The scripture readings, as well as different Mass parts, were read in multiple languages including: English, Spanish, Creole, native languages, Korean, sign language, Tagalog, and others. In addition to the Mass being in a diverse number of languages, there were also people with special needs called upon to participate in meaningful ways. To me this added gravitas to the Pope's message being for all people.

This crowd was the view behind us (from our seats) at Catholic University. To the far left, you can see the top of the Papal vehicle used as Pope Francis went around and through the crowd prior to the Mass.

Highlights: Sister Sharon Dillon

It was amazing!! I was content with the fact that I would most likely NOT get any tickets for any of the events. I had already been blessed to have had four Papal Audiences with Pope John Paul II and was able to attend the Mass in DC when Pope Benedict came to the US on his visit. I also attended a Mass where Pope Benedict presided in Rome. So I figured my chances were very slim, and I truly wanted others to have an opportunity. Then I received the kindest letter from the Vicar of Religious of the Washington, DC diocese asking me if I wanted tickets. I responded, "Of course," but also let her know that there was no way I could attend alone, and needed companionship as I was (and still do) struggle with large crowds. I asked for one more ticket and received three. So I was able to take my own entourage of support people which included Sister Kimberly Mulhearn, Sister Shannon Fox, and Ms. Katy Prebble, the President of the Academy of the Holy Cross, where I teach.

My entourage, really, my supports; I would not have made it without their help as they literally surrounded me and held me up!

The Mass was beyond words. We had seats in the third row. I saw many sisters I hadn't seen for years, and it was so great to catch up and they continued to ask, "Wow, how did you get these seats?" I was so blessed. The two rows of individuals in front of us were tribal leaders from the Missions in the West. I was so grateful to see them, and introduced myself. There was a beautiful exchange, and as best as I could, I apologized for any continuing tensions that existed, and still do, and were created from the Franciscan family. I asked for their forgiveness as well. I was embraced and enfolded into the peoples...I was deeply touched and honored. It was truly a mutual exchange. I have a beautiful picture with Redstar, one of the Tribal Leaders who was so very touched in our exchange. I was then included and together we talked and walked through the Eucharistic Celebration and Canonization of Junipero Serra.

Embraced by Redstar

We were all brought to tears! It was so beautiful. Truly a perfect time for reconciliation, especially at the Mass that also was offering the Plenary Indulgence...a time of new beginning!

Students and faculty, as well as a few of my friends, attended the Papal Visitation with President Obama. I was asked to go along as a chaperone, but did have to decline due to my energy level and managing of the crowds for the two events I did attend. But below are a few of the photos shared with me.

My friends, Prof. Marian Diaz, Sr. Simone Campbell SSS,
and Ambassador Miguel Diaz
And a picture they shared with me of their view of the event

And one of my students as well as our AHC President Katy, Principal and Campus Minister, had close encounters...handshakes and hugs with Pope Francis! So here are a few of these wonderful pictures!

One of the Moreau Students (special needs), Theresa,
meets Pope Francis! Love his look!
And a hug for one of the Academy's special girls!

And our (pregnant) AHC Campus Minister, Linda, gets her child (to arrive soon) blessed by the Pope.

This picture is as close as we got with
Pope Francis (ha, ha, ha). It was taken outside of Union Station.
Here we are, arriving at dawn to get to the West Lawn of the Capitol with 50,000 other individuals for the Papal Address...

And then, at the end of his Address, Pope Francis came out on the upper Balcony and asked for our prayers...very moving, very similar to when the Pope comes out on the Papal Apartment Balcony in Rome!

  He really is standing right here Just waiting, and more waiting

Then we were the final people to leave the West Lawn. (Actually, we were politely asked to leave by the Police.) We were just living and basking in the entire experience, and waiting for the crowd to clear!

A few last "memorable" moments:

Vice President Biden passed by us, both on the way to his seat (which was behind us), and when he left.

VP Biden Arrives VP Biden Leaves

Kim and Shannon miraculously meet up with a friend from Giving Voice, amid the 25,000 people gathered!

And then, as we rushed into the METRO, another miraculous encounter with a friend of theirs from Giving Voice!

We received Papal Memorabilia Metro Pass Covers!

These pictures tell the story much better than any of us could...IT WAS A GIFT FROM GOD, and way beyond words. Pictures truly say more than can ever be expressed by words. Our congregation was held in prayer the entire time...and YOU were all there with us!!!

Where one of us is, we all are!


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