When Pope Francis visited the United States in September 2015, I was on the streets of Philadelphia covering his historic visit with a groundbreaking millennial citizen journalist group called the Pope Is Hope Digital Street Team.
In Philadelphia, I was joined by more than a dozen other young adult journalists watching popemania take over. On the streets, I document the pontiff’s visit using social media – Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat – to highlight how #GoodIsWinning before, during and after the papal visit.
During my journey, I met people from all walks of life.
Like Daniel, the security guard who survived getting shot six times.
Or Luke, who helped put together the Our Lady Undoer of Knots Grotto that Pope Francis visited and blessed on his last day in Philadelphia.
Just the same with Taneli, who entered a convent at the start of October.
And the pair of sisters, just two of the seven siblings, who visited the Grotto in a daily vigil to write knots for each of their family members.
Also, Tabitha, whose great-grandma passed away Easter Sunday, and her grandma who still struggles daily losing her own grandma.
Before heading to Philly though, I wrote Pixels of Hope, a story about how a Houston photographer captured good amidst tragedy through photos.
Our group was documented in nearly every way possible.
CBS Evening News sent a one-man crew to follow us around Philadelphia, sharing our mission on national television.
Elite Daily, a media outlet focused on today’s young people, followed our entire team from each of the three cities and made this short documentary.
I’ll never forget this group or this trip. It was seriously one of the wildest, most unexpected and profound experiences in my life. In the streets of Philadelphia, my life experienced true mercy and grace.
I never got to shake Pope Francis’ hand or take a selfie with him either, but my encounter with Pope Francis left a permanent mark on my heart that will take me a lifetime to understand. But today, I embrace his message of hope, mercy and joy and run as fast as I can.