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9/23/2015
First Person: Philadelphia turns into global city for World Meeting
Families All Around -- Some 17,000 people from throughout the world convened at The Pennsylvania Convention Center in Philadelphia for the first day of the World Meeting of Families to be held Sept. 22-25. The meeting will feature noted speakers, including bishops, priests and lay women and men addressing various topics pertinent to the sacredness of family life. Craig Pittelli photo
Families All Around -- Some 17,000 people from throughout the world convened at The Pennsylvania Convention Center in Philadelphia for the first day of the World Meeting of Families to be held Sept. 22-25. The meeting will feature noted speakers, including bishops, priests and lay women and men addressing various topics pertinent to the sacredness of family life. Craig Pittelli photo

By Brittany Wilson | Social Media Coordinator

This week, I’m on my own turf.

My home, near the Italian Market in South Philadelphia, is less than a 30-minute walk to all the action of the World Meeting of Families.

To see photo gallery on this story, click here.

To read diocesan director's experience at WMF, click here.

As I neared the entrance to the Pennsylvania Convention Center at South 11th and Arch Streets, I could feel an energy spilling from the building and into the street.

The positivity even seemed to affect the native Philadelphians. No one was yelling. No one was walking too fast and pushing people out of the way -- everyone seemed to be on their best behavior, which is unusual for here.

There were still more than two hours left before the World Meeting of Families officially began, but the building was beginning to fill with members of the clergy, faithful pilgrims, volunteers and media.

Hundreds of smiling faces whizzed past as I made my way to the Media Center to do some important housekeeping – I needed the Wi-Fi password -- before the day got underway.

Many were speaking languages I had trouble identifying. Every once and a while I would catch something I understood in dialects other than English – including “Pope Francis” and “pizza” (it was almost lunchtime) -- but despite the language barrier, I could tell everyone was full of excitement for the events of the coming week.

Finally, I met up with someone I recognized. He shared in the joy radiating from building, but couldn’t pin point one thing about the World Meeting he was most anticipating.

“I’m looking forward to everything,” said Hector Ramirez, diocesan seminarian who currently studies and resides in St. Charles Borromeo Seminary, Wynnewood, Pa. The seminary is a little more than 8 miles from the convention center, and will be hosting the Holy Father during his stay in Philadelphia.

Ramirez was among the people I talked to who covered the least distance to get to the World Meeting on Families on Tuesday.

To put it into perspective: I met residents of Rhode Island (about 276 miles) and Kentucky (about 671 miles), as well as citizens of Mexico (about 2,558 miles), Kenya (about 7,276 miles) and Vietnam (about 8,218 miles).

In all, more than 17,000 registered attendees at the World Meeting hail from more than 100 countries, making this year’s meeting the largest one to date.

Joanna Gardner, who works for Catholic Charities in the Diocese of Camden, and also contributes to their diocesan publication, The Catholic Star Herald, said she was ecstatic that she gets to be a part of coverage of such a major event.

We were among representatives from Catholic News Service, CNN and all the major outlets in Philadelphia and throughout the world.

During a short media session with Philadelphia Archbishop Charles Chaput and Archbishop Vincenzo Paglia, president of the Pontifical Council for the Family, questions were addressed from journalists from places as far away as France and as close to home as Bucks County.

So maybe it isn’t my home turf at all.

The many voices from more than half the world’s countries are coming together to make Philadelphia a global city. It doesn’t belong to me or any other Philadelphian for the next seven days -- it belongs to the world.

Brittany Wilson is the social media coordinator for the Diocese of Trenton. She can be reached at brwils@dioceseoftrenton.org.






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