Washington, D.C. – (By. Ed Laiscell – Inquiring News-CT. – Washington, D.C. Correspondent ) – After months of planning, organizing, and recruitment by the staff and leadership of Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of Washington, D.C., the day everyone was looking forward to finally arrived. Last Thursday, September 24, 300 men, women, and children from the social service agency’s housing and homeless programs attended a luncheon in front the headquarters in downtown D.C. where they eagerly waited for the guest of honor to arrive – Pope Francis.
The Pontiff finally arrived at the luncheon around 11 am following a speech before a joint session of Congress. The 78-year old leader of the 2.5 million member Roman Catholic Church emerged from the doors of the agency and immediately made his way to the children of the Tenants Empowerment Network program.
The historic day began for this writer with a wake-up at 4 am followed by a ride to the Adams Place Shelter, an emergency program that houses 150 men per night, where this writer serves as Program Coordinator. The 25 men who signed up to be part of the 300 that would have the opportunity to meet with Pope Francis, a very humble religious leader.
At 6:30 a.m. the bus that would carry the 25 men and three staff persons (Program Administrator Robert Walker, Residential Counselor Michael Sanford, and this writer) arrived. Once everyone was dressed and ready to go, we made our way to board the bus. Breakfast was served, as we made our way to the Secret Service checkpoint, located one block from the luncheon site.
Once through security the residents joined the other excited residents from the various programs. Catholic Charities operates about 25 housing and homeless services programs throughout the Washington, D.C. area. While waiting for the Pontiff’s arrival, the luncheon guests, that also included Catholic Charities Board members, staff, and donors were entertained by a local school girls’ choir.
Excitement broke out once Pope Francis emerged and began making his way through the gathering taking the time to bless children, shake hands and talking with many of the homeless in attendance. After greeting the guests, the Pontiff departed the luncheon and headed for Andrews Air Force base to depart for the second leg of his US visit – New York city, where he was to address the United Nations General Assembly, hold a mass at Madison Square Garden, and meet students at a Catholic School in Harlem.
Pope Francis concluded his trip to the United States attending events in Philadelphia. The final event on his trip was a mass that ended the World Meeting of Families held on the Benjamin Franklin Parkway. The crowd was estimated to be at 860,000.