Sister Gertrude Gillette and her friend, Sister Scholastica Auguste, both members of a Benedictine community in Davidson, traveled to Washington, D.C. to see Pope Francis when he visited the United States in September.
“We had planned to go to D.C. for several months, but up until two days before we left, we didn’t have any tickets. We had tried different avenues (to get tickets) and felt compelled to go. Then just before we left, we found out we could get tickets for the west lawn to see the pope on the JumboTron when he addressed Congress,” Sister Gertrude said.
“We called the office of U.S. Rep. Robert Pittenger (R-N.C.). The only way to get tickets was to have someone in D.C. pick up the tickets for us because there wasn’t time to mail them. A friend picked up the tickets, got some more for herself, and drove the tickets to Virginia where we would be staying.
“We left after school Tuesday,” Sister Gertrude said. “We got up at 4:30 the next morning because the metro opened at 5 and headed to a special pilgrim Mass for those going to see the Pope.
“We walked from the church to security, about 2 miles, and found a little place near a fence and sat next to it waiting from 7:15 until 11:30. Because there was such a big crowd and the people were putting their hands above their heads to take pictures, it was hard to see him. I had to keep jumping up and down to see the pope. I got to see him for about two seconds between two heads. But it was worth waiting the four hours for those two seconds,” Sister Gertrude said.
She continued her story: “We walked another 2 miles to Union Station to go to Catholic University, where the pope was going to say Mass at 4. We didn’t have any tickets, but we were told there was an overflow section, so at least we’d be close for this big event.
“When we got off the metro, an official told us to go see the man under the tree. We went up to him, and he was handing out tickets out to the event. We happily took the tickets.
“We went to stand in line for 2 1/2 hours to go through security to go to the Mass. At 3 we went through security and got inside and sat down on the grass.”
“Security was super tight. There were police every 2 feet,” Sister Gertrude said.
Right then, the pope entered. “He came by so close, about 4 feet from me. I was dancing up and down. He looked down at this crazy nun and smiled at me. My moment of great joy,” Sister Gertrude said. She then joined Sister Scholastica and watched the Mass on the JumboTron.
The next day they went to the Capitol to hear the pope speak to Congress, watching on the JumboTron on the lawn. “When we were leaving and heard people yelling, we asked what was going on and found out the pope had gone into a church to a soup kitchen. So I got to see him again,” Sister Gertrude said.
Sister Gertrude added, “We must have been interviewed 20 to 30 times. There were more that 33,000 people on the lawn and reporters kept asking us questions. I guess people wanted to hear what the nuns had to say.
“Everyone loved the pope and talked about how humble he was. He spread love and joy and peace wherever he went. It was a happy trip,” she said.
Lisa Daidone is a freelance writer: firstname.lastname@example.org.