PHILADELPHIA — The pilgrims from Maine rode for hours on a bus, walked for miles through crowded city streets and jostled the masses to find the perfect spot to watch Pope Francis celebrate Mass on Sunday.

They strolled by Hispanic pilgrims who sang joyful hymns, and they prayed fiercely with rosary beads as born-again Christian preachers hurled hateful insults their way, including at passing nuns.

Many of the 45 Mainers on a pilgrimage organized by the Roman Catholic Diocese of Portland found vantage points near Jumbotrons on Benjamin Franklin Parkway, about a half-mile from the altar that was in front of the Philadelphia Museum of Art.

Despite the hard slog and hassles, the pilgrims were elated to have celebrated their faith with an estimated 1 million people in the City of Brotherly Love.

“It was absolutely worth it – even with the long lines,” said Kay Saucier of Levant, near Bangor. “It took us three hours to walk and wait to get through security. But to hear him speak and see the crowd absolutely silent – it was mesmerizing.”

Saucier and other pilgrims were impressed with how smoothly the Eucharist was distributed to thousands of believers. At the appropriate time, 250 priests and deacons lined up along the parkway under yellow and white umbrellas provided by the Knights of Columbus. A total of 85,000 hosts – or Eucharistic wafers – had been consecrated for the occasion.


“That was the most amazing Eucharist,” said Lee Street of Raymond. “It was like the loaves and the fishes.”

Monica Cote of Bangor was struck by the diversity she saw in the sea of humanity that surrounded her.

“To think that every human being is made in the image of God – that was overwhelming to me in that moment,” Cote said.

She also was moved by the pope’s homily, which focused on the need to create a loving home as a foundation to heal divisions in the world. It was a simple message that she believes will have a big effect as it ripples out through the millions who heard the pope in Philadelphia and across the globe Sunday.

“When you treat each other with love and compassion, it goes a long way toward healing troubles everywhere,” Cote said.

And Cote was amused when Pope Francis demonstrated his now-familiar sense of humor at the end of the Mass.

“When I ask you, ‘Pray for me,’ don’t forget,” he said, smiling.

“It made me chuckle because it makes him so human,” Cote said. “It was a cute remark that hit home.”


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