On Pilgrimage: Reflections on Seeing Pope Francis

Pope Hopeby S. Karen Mohan, VHM

Until going to Philadelphia in late September,*  I had only seen one other Pope, and that was Pope (now Saint) John XXIII. I was 14 years old, with my Mom, my Aunt Ann and my Aunt Paddy on a special trip to Rome! We were all so excited! This took place before Pope John had “opened the window” of the Catholic Church to the modern world by convening the Second Vatican Council. The Holy Spirit was at work then and now, and we were travelling east to be a part of the energy and love surrounding Pope Francis’ presence.

 “[I]n the people, the care, the palpable faith “in the air”, I saw the power of the Spirit through this man of God and through the thousands of people standing in line with me.” — S. Karen

Driving straight through from Minneapolis to Philadelphia is a feat in itself– a 20 hour one! Travelling with three wonderful women and having the support of community, family, friends and fellow pilgrims – -all this added to our joy!   Our brother Oblates of St. Francis de Sales were offering us hospitality and we had our walking shoes and “regulation size” back packs ready.

“Life means getting our feet dirty from the dust-filled roads of life and history. All of us need to be cleansed, to be washed. All of us are being sought out by the Teacher who wants to help us resume our journey …   May this knowledge inspire us to live in solidarity, to support one another, and see the best for others.“  — Pope Francis

When I returned, people kept asking me, “Did you see Pope Francis?”   Well, I did see the Pope-mobile go by, and he must have been waving at me! However, in the people, the care, the palpable faith “in the air”, I saw the power of the Spirit through this man of God and through the thousands of people standing in line with me.

SKaren Mohan 1966 crop

S. Karen Mohan, circa, 1971


This unique moment in the life of the Church and of the world is converging with my own personal history.
When I made my first vows as a Visitation Sister at the St. Louis Monastery on June 6, 1966, the Church’s windows were being opened, the II Vatican Council was in session, and a young Jesuit in Argentina was living his commitment, preparing (though he did not know it) for this moment in history.

As Pope Francis said in Philadelphia to the Inmates of the Curran-Fromhold Prison, “Life means getting our feet dirty from the dust-filled roads of life and history. All of us need to be cleansed, to be washed. All of us are being sought out by the Teacher who wants to help us resume our journey …   May this knowledge inspire us to live in solidarity, to support one another, and see the best for others.“

May we do just that as we live our commitments, one day at a time.

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*Click to see photos from S. Karen’s trip to Philadelphia to see Pope Francis

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