In October 2015, Pope Francis came to my hometown of Philadelphia for the World Meeting of Families (WMOF), a gathering of the Catholic Church that happens every 3 years in a different city. This event brought along millions of loyal pilgrims from all walks of life across the world into town- so many that for a short while the Population of Philadelphia has doubled. This eventually became known as the 3rd largest event in US history.
Many local residents saw this event as a potential boon and another reason to stay home. However, I saw this as opportunity for Philadelphia to shine into the international spotlight.
I worked with the city to launch a multilingual resources that helps visitors get around the city during the event. Additionally, as a WMOF ambassador, I also coordinated travel plans and showed around town an English-speaking group flying in from Panama.
In that short but eventful weekend, I learned so much from being part of this exchange of cultures. I’ve talked about what life is like with festive pilgrims across every edge of the globe and gained an insightful international point of view. It really helps to have an open mind, ready to learn anytime, anywhere.
Despite the fact that I’m not Catholic nor practice any religion, I gained a lot of respect for the crowds of people who showed up to see the Pope and the organizers who have worked tirelessly to put this together. It takes a lot of dedication and overhead to plan this event, and I gained a lot of helpful perspective on what it’s to coordinate such an event and how I could apply it on a smaller scale (like when it comes to hackathons and to an even algorithms!)
Note: This text was originally submitted as a college essay limited to 300 words. The prompt was “Describe an experience of cultural difference or insensitivity you have had or observed. What did you learn from it?”
Here are some photos:
Below are a selection of my photos highlighting my experience during the Pope weekend:
Before SEPTA released their map, I created an unofficial map showing how transit service would initially be affected during the papal visit:
Sales at some local restaurants were so slow that they were literally giving out free food (On Saturday night I had free oysters.)
For the first time in quite a while, the Benjamin Franklin bridge was open to foot traffic… if you wanted to visit Camden (or staying there for the night:)
The bicycle coalition hosted a Popecycle race that pitted a cupcake bakery against an ice cream shop in a block-long race. Everyone got free treats afterwards. Here’s a video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SMagaRpq2Ng
In porta potties we trust. They were EVERYWHERE, sometimes going as far as they eye can see.
It was really nice to see (and hear) the enthusiasm in the air, with each group singing their songs proudly marching along in their native language:
SEPTA had to handle a high volume of people going through this particular stop, but since subway service was more frequent than rush hour, the trains were actually never packed.
Vatican members preform a communion to pilgrims against the fence on The Parkway:
You can find more photos by visiting my GitHub repo: