What a wonderful experience of being Catholic this past week has been; overwhelming, but exhilarating! The visit of Pope Francis had a positive impact on both Catholics and non-Catholics alike.

After more than a year of preparation, the Holy Father finally arrived in Washington. His trip was such a kaleidoscope of experiences that it will take a while to sort them out. I will be doing a series of blogs on the pastoral lessons he brought to us.

What struck me most was that he came more as a pastor than as a pontiff or prophet. Of course everything he said was prophetic in nature but not as a command but as an invitation. His speech to the Congress was a pastoral reflection on how to govern. Critics have pointed out that he did not mention the name of Jesus, but the Gospel message was at the heart of his message to the lawmakers of our nation. He spoke of the Gospel values of mercy, compassion for the poor, for migrants and for our common home.

When he spoke to the bishops, his words again were those of a pastor reminding us, his fellow bishops that, “whenever a hand reaches out to do good or to show the love of Christ, to dry a tear or bring comfort to the lonely, to show the way to one who is lost or to console a broken heart … know that the Pope is at your side and supports you.” Of course, he was being a minister to ministers, something we all must be.

It was amazing how patient people were, hoping to get a glimpse of the Holy Father. People standing for hours in front of the capital, waiting along the street for the Pope in his Popemobile or black Fiat to pass, and standing in long lines for security checks, all were witnessing to their faith in Jesus Christ and their love of the Holy Father.

I returned on Thursday, so I missed the New York and Philadelphia events, but almost felt as if were there on Sunday afternoon at Klyde Warren Park, where I sat with more than 3,500 people of all ages for the Pope’s final celebration of Mass closing the World Meeting of Families. Surrounded by so many of our local families, young people, seniors, a real Catholic mosaic, I felt a great sense of community and appreciation in being Catholic.

The excitement continued into Monday at the Bishop Farrell Invitational, where 230 generous golfers joined us for a day of fellowship that contributed thousands of dollars to scholarships for students to attend our Catholic schools.

Yes, it has all truly been a rich blessing for me. I thank our Heavenly Father for the privilege to serve as the bishop of this great diocese and I am indeed proud to be Catholic.

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