Somewhere in Rome, Pope Francis is (possibly? likely?) wearing an iRACE4 Vocations T-shirt.
On April 27 an estimated 800,000 converged in Rome to celebrate the canonization of John Paul II and John XXIII. Their successors, current Pope Francis and retired Pope Benedict XVI, concelebrated the liturgy.
After Mass, Pope Francis waved to the crowds from his popemobile, and soon a bright green shirt was hurtling toward him. Josh Nevitt, a third-year seminarian of the Diocese of Camden studying at Pontifical North American College, wadded up the iRACE shirt like a baseball and threw a perfect strike into the popemobile.
Five thousand miles away from Rome, in Glassboro, the Diocese of Camden was holding its 3rd annual iRACE4Vocations 5K Run/1 Mile walk at Rowan University. A crowd of over 600 came together to pray for an increase in vocations to the priesthood and religious life, to pray that young men and women might understand the call to holiness, much like John Paul II and John XXIII, the newest members of the communion of saints.
In Rome, Nevitt, as well as priests and laity from the Camden Diocese were among the pilgrims near St. Peter’s Square in Vatican City to witness the historic occasion: two popes coming together to recognize the sainthood of their predecessors.
Kari Janisse, a resident of Williamstown and director of youth ministry at Our Lady of Peace Parish, traveled to Italy with her husband, Phil, and met up with Nevitt.
The night before the canonizations, the three camped out on the streets of Rome, off of the Via della Conciliazione, with blankets, food and rosaries in hand, joined by thousands of other pilgrims from around the world. As the crush of attendees made it impossible to move closer to St. Peter’s square, the trio moved inside at a local Polish church.
“The church was holding an all-night adoration vigil, and then, in the morning, streaming the papal canonization Mass on a jumbo screen set up outside their church,” Janisse said.
“It was a beautiful way to watch the canonization, being so close but not in the mix of the very large crowd,” she said.
“At the end of Mass, we walked up the street into the Via della Conciliazione and received the final blessing from the pope, which was extended to bless religious sacramentals and our items we purchased for friends and family.”
After the blessing, as Pope Francis was driven off in his popemobile, saying farewell, the three snapped pictures, and Nevitt did his best imitation of Steve Carlton.
“My husband and I came to Italy to bring a personal, prayerful intention, and other’s intentions, to the canonization of John Paul II,” Janisse said.
Father Timothy Byerley, pastor of Mary, Queen of All Saints in Pennsauken, who traveled to Rome with Father Frederick Link, senior priest at St. Joseph the Worker Parish in Haddon Township, and 31 other pilgrims from the Diocese of Camden, called last Sunday “heavenly.” He and Father Link joined the estimated 150 cardinals and bishops and 6,000 priests in attendance.
“Every aspect of the Mass, from the music to Pope Francis’ charisma, was unforgettable,” he said.
“While there is no denying the crowds were challenging, it was a tremendous privilege to participate in this historic and inspiring event,” he said. “These new saints have left a profound mark on the life of the contemporary church and the response of the faithful confirms that Pope Francis’ decision to canonize these two models of sanctity was in perfect accord with the sentiments of Catholics around the world.”