Clemmons women see Pope Francis

Published 11:13 am Friday, October 9, 2015

By Mandy Haggerson

Millions of people made pilgrimages to get a glimpse of Argentine-born Pope Francis as he made his 6-day trip to the United States. These hopefuls came from over 100 countries to witness the leader of 1.2 billion Roman Catholics. One of those people was Clemmons resident, Maggie Herbstritt.

Maggie has been a very active member of Holy Family Catholic Church in Clemmons for 28 years. She has taught Confraternity of Christian Doctrine (CCD) classes, served as an usher, and is currently the treasurer of the State of North Carolinas Columbiettes. Maggie recently got a call from fellow parishioner and friend, Nancy Muster, to gauge her interest in going to Philadelphia for this historic event. Nancy had secured 4 tickets to Philadelphia where the pious pontiff himself would be visiting. Nancy had originally planned on attending with her family, but circumstances did not allow for that to happen.

With her bags packed and excitement mounting, Maggie headed for Philadelphia on Wednesday, September 23. Nancy had left 2 days prior. They were looking forward to being accompanied by other Holy Family friends: Vicki Myers, Gena Henry, Gloria and Philip Murphy, and Flora Juan. “When I arrived in Philadelphia, I had to register on Thursday,” recalls Maggie. “We spent those days doing a lot of sightseeing and attending daily mass.” Maggie enjoyed seeing the Catholic Shrines, St. John Neumann, St. Katharine Drexel, St. Rita of Cascia, and the Miraculous Medal. “The excitement was overwhelming as we got closer to the Pope’s visit.

During a mass for the bishops and archbishops, people were also excited to hear from Archbishop Charles Chaput of Philadelphia,” remembers Maggie. “You could tell everyone had love in their hearts. “ Maggie also remembers staying up late talking with friends about their excursions that day, and what the following one would bring. On Thursday, September 24, the city of Philadelphia really tightened security measures, much like Transportation Security Administration (TSA) screenings. People in the city had to decide whether they would be staying or leaving. After ten o’clock that night, the streets were completely closed. All cars were put in a parking lot for security purposes.

Impressed by how safe she felt, Maggie notes, “the city of Philadelphia was very secure and prepared.” Maggie and her friends were able to watch the mass service at the Cathedral Basilica of Saints Peter and Paul on a jumbotron on Saturday, September 26. All attendees needed advanced tickets provided to them by the World Meeting of Families.

Maggie was moved by the message being delivered by Pope Francis. “He spoke at length about immigration and our role in it. He also reminded us of the importance of family and love.” After mass, Pope Francis blessed the messages placed in the interactive art installation, Mary, Undoer of Knots Grotto. This structure was located outside of the Cathedral Basilica of Saints Peter and Paul. The wooden dome allowed people to write down their struggles anonymously and tie them to a wall of wire over the past couple of months.

The World Meeting of Families Mercy and Justice Campaign collected the written struggles of over 30,000 people. This was especially meaningful to Maggie because she had lost 3 of her family members within a short time frame. As the Pope made his way to visit the Independence Mall, the masses lined up to await a closer glimpse, including Maggie. “I’ll always remember it.

As he was waving, he was making the sign of the cross and blessing us the entire time.” A lot of people had gotten there very early in the morning hopeful of getting a brief glimpse. “Everyone was very nice while we were waiting. However, the moment the Pope came close by, everyone packed in to get as close of a look as possible. You couldn’t blame anyone, we were all so excited to see him, to be there.”

Maggie smiles as she takes away a sense of appreciation from her trip. “I went home with a sense of gratitude and wanting to be patient with myself and in life. He reminded me of how important that is in our daily lives.” Maggie also put this in the books as one of her truly once in a lifetime opportunities. I’m very grateful to Nancy that she provided me this incredible experience.

When Nancy asked, I had to go.” It occurred to this writer that the wonder of this woman’s journey was one that included many people, but was, at the same time, her own unique experience. She went with certain expectations, but came back with thoughts and experiences she couldn’t have anticipated. It brings to mind the reflections of essayist and poet A.C. Benson, “As I make my slow pilgrimage through the world, a certain sense of beautiful mystery seems to grow and gather.”