Waterloo woman attends parade for Pope in D.C.
A Waterloo woman was fortunate to stand just a short distance from Pope Francis during his first visit last week to Washington, D.C.
After meeting with President Obama at the White House last Wednesday, the 78-year-old Pope was driven between the Ellipse and a portion of the National Mall in the Popemobile as tens of thousands of onlookers cheered.
One of those in the large crowd on Constitution Avenue near the Washington Monument was Judi Horrell.
“It was very awe-inspiring to be a part of,” Horrell said of the experience.
Horrell said she deeply regrets missing out on an opportunity to see Pope John Paul II during his visit to St. Louis in the late 1990s.
Her son, Patrick, is a graduate of Catholic University of America and works as an attorney in D.C. He helped his mother make sure she didn’t miss out on seeing the Pope this time around.
“I went to visit Patrick and see the Pope at the same time,” Horrell said.
A friend of Patrick’s helped Judi get the opportunity to see the Pope during the parade. She was put in touch with the friend, who is a member of the American Federation of Government Employees. Together, they attended an early morning Mass conducted in Spanish at Immaculate Conception Church in D.C.
“They handed out wristbands after Mass for us to attend the parade, and we all walked to the parade route straight from the church,” Horrell said. “We were singing songs and chanting most of the way.”
As expected, there was a heightened sense of security and a strong military presence around the parade route. Snipers were stationed atop buildings and bags were checked before anyone wishing to attend the parade could receive clearance to the barricaded area.
Horrell was in D.C. for President Obama’s inauguration in 2008, and said the security was even more heightened this time around.
“No one complained about it,” Horrell said about the heavy security. “It’s pretty much an expectation in this day and age.”
The Pope’s visit was shown on big-screen TVs throughout the parade route as thousands waited in anticipation.
“Humanity has the ability to work together in building our common home,” the Pope told a crowd of thousands on the south lawn of the White House in his first major speech in English. “As Christians inspired by this certainty, we wish to commit ourselves to the conscious and responsible care of our common home.”
This was the first U.S. visit for Pope Francis, who was greeted everywhere by joyful crowds. Catholics and non-Catholics alike held up their cell phones as they tried for just a glimpse of the 266th pope — only the fourth to visit the U.S.
Following a three-hour wait, Horrell and the others finally got their wish to see His Holiness.
Horrell said it was truly an “awe-inspiring” experience that she won’t soon forget.
“The feeling of peace and love among everyone (there) was unbelievable,” Horrell said. “If one man can inspire this, what can we do if we focus our energies together for the good of all?”
As for the Pope’s remarks during the D.C. visit, Horrell was impressed with his call for peace.
“He speaks to everybody, with a strong message to care for your fellow man and the environment,” she said.