Vicki Cessna Reports: Covering those covering the Pope: NYC and Philly

Vicki Cessna Reports: Covering those covering the Pope: NYC and Philly September 27, 2015

While my schedule isn’t nearly as packed as 78-year-old Pope Francis’ (seriously–how does he do it!) there has been little time to be sitting composing pithy musings. But here I am with some quiet time in my hotel room before my 9 a.m. report time so following are some thoughts about my last day in New York (Friday).

Friday I wasn’t assigned to cover a specific venue (though colleagues I know reported at 5 a.m. to be ready for the Ground Zero event at 11:30) so I spent some time in the filing center in the Marriott catching up with my team back home who’ve done an amazing job of keeping up with our own local “to do” lists and helping chart this journey through diocesan social media (like us on Facebook; follow us on Twitter – stay tuned for our Pinterest board :)). I also was tickled to be interviewed by a radio station out of Wesley college – “Reasonably Catholic” about being inside St. Patrick’s Cathedral during Evening Prayer Wednesday night. Host Maria was lovely and says it should air Tuesday by the way.

Needing to get some fresh air I took to the streets with colleagues in search of a New York slice. We were only out for a short while before being called back to the hotel to get our Philly assignments but the atmosphere in New York was amazing. Everywhere our welcome signs and honestly, I have no idea where New Yorkers get a rap for being rude because I always encounter the friendliest people. One of New York’s finest gave us a great tip to go to Junior’s Bakery for some dessert which we did (best brownie and coffee $7 can buy you–it is NY afterall).

We ran into two women who had come from Maine and were in Central Park for the Pope’s parade in the popemobile. They were beaming. We did walk down to Madison Square Garden thinking we could maybe catch a glimpse of the pope’s motorcade zipping down from Central Park but apparently there’s an underground tunnel into MSG so alas it was not meant to be.

We did, however, take this photo for a woman who stopped us and said her phone was almost dead and would we mind taking a photo so she could send to her mom who just “loves Pope Francis.” So we did. See! Why can’t we all just get along – it really isn’t that difficult :).

Friday was also a logistics day as all volunteers had to take a train out of Penn Station to Philly. USCCB had secured two train cars and we waited in what I guess is like the train’s “admiral club.” Sitting close by to me was Cardinal McCarrick who had a steady stream of people coming up and thanking him and just expressing their wishes including one New York police officer who was overheard relaying how his 6-year-old had just started Catholic school.

We pulled into Philadelphia close to Midnight and apparently they had decided to keep the light’s on for us –though the city was eerily quiet – with many road closures. We had a police escort to the hotel which did an amazing job of commandeering logistics.

Oh yeah–back to the Pope :). What can I say? Even without being at a venue on Friday it was hard not to monitor the live coverage and feeds. From his United Nations address to Ground Zero to his infectious smile as he spent time with school children in Harlem to his celebration of Mass at a place known for boxing matches and concerts. Check out USCCB’s papal visit website and go to “Video On Demand” for some great highlights. [due to technical difficulties -read “user error”–i can’t seem to get a direct link to Friday’s highlight video].

While some of this is likely in all the media coverage here’s some behind the scenes stuff I thought was pretty cool:

All the people at Ground Zero had a connection to 911 or the 1993 bombing of the World Trade Center. According to a colleague the atmosphere was somber but deeply moving. If you can watch the children singing “Let there be Peace on Earth” and not tear up then my hat off to you.

So now I’m already on the ground behind the scenes at the Mass site and actually left my notes on Friday back at my hotel. So more tidbits later. Here are some photos:


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