Pilgrims bring home lessons of love

Margaret Loignon boarded a bus home on Sept. 28 with one message going through her mind.

“I’ve really learned that we can’t just continue with the status quo,” she said. “We have to get out there and shake up what we’ve been doing.”

Loignon, who attends St. Mark Church in Newberry, made the trip to Philadelphia at the urging of her husband and because she thought it might bring new perspectives to her work as pro-life coordinator for her parish.

She ended up with a whole new perspective on the Church.

“During Pope Francis’ homily at Sunday’s Mass, he emphasized caring for each other, and told us to remember that our families make up the future Church,” she said. “He reminded us that we have a global Church, that it’s more than just a local thing. Families all over the world need to grow closer together, and we have to realize that all of us Catholics around the world need to come together as well. You hear things like that and your heart swells.”

Like many people who see him, Loignon was impressed by the Holy Father’s down-to-earth persona and the ease he showed in relating to people. During the Festival of Families, she said he gave a speech that gently reminded the huge crowd not to leave behind Philadelphia’s lessons about the importance of family.

“He had this huge smile on his face and he kept saying gently ‘don’t forget, don’t forget,’” she said. “I can tell you we’re not going to forget anything he told us!”

Seeing Pope Francis in person was the culmination of a joy-filled week, she said, highlighted by keynote speakers who discussed ways to preserve family life in the face of an increasingly secular culture.

She especially took home the message of “The Joy of the Gospel of Life,” a keynote speech offered by Rick Warren, a nondenominational Christian pastor and author who is perhaps best known for his devotional book “The Purpose Driven Life.”

He said it was important that Catholics — and all Christians — focus on evangelization and revitalizing worship “so we can also revitalize our families.” Warren explained that joy-filled families base their lives on the love of God, build themselves on purpose and “focus on becoming like Christ.”

“He told us to focus on Christ because He is more interested in your character than your comfort,” Loignon said.

Loignon also took to heart the words of Boston’s Cardinal Sean O’Malley, who urged attendees to “build a civilization of love.”

Those who visited Philly have a good start on that challenge, Loignon said, because love permeated every aspect of the event. She described how she “never hugged so many people in my life” as she had during the week.