South Charlotte

Couple celebrates marriage at Vatican City

Julie, center, and Sean McLaughlin, shaking hands, recently visited the pope in Vatican City.
Julie, center, and Sean McLaughlin, shaking hands, recently visited the pope in Vatican City. COURTESY OF JULIE AND SEAN MCLAUGHLIN

Charlotte residents Julie and Sean McLaughlin, who married on Aug. 29, spent three weeks in Italy for their honeymoon and while they were in Rome, visited Vatican City.

During Pope Francis’ general audience at St. Peter’s Square on Sept. 9, they were invited to join other newlyweds on stage and receive blessings, an event known as the sposi novelli, said Julie, 25.

Both Catholics, they watched from seats nearly 50 yards from the pope as he addressed the crowd, who was clapping and chanting his name, Julie said.

“It was special to be able to see that,” Julie said. “He is just so loved.”

Sean, 27, shook the pope’s hand and Julie kissed his hand.

“The ability to shake the pope’s hand is one of the most powerful experiences I’ve ever had,” he said. “There is such a holiness that surrounds him.”

The couple applied for tickets to the general audience through the Pontifical North American College in Rome.

The pope holds a general audience most Wednesday mornings in Vatican City. To be included in the sposi novelli, couples must be married within two months of the audience they wish to attend and must bring a copy of their Sacramental Marriage Certificate signed by their priest, according to the college.

The couples also don wedding attire, Julie said.

After the audience, Julie said everyone was eager to meet the pope, a chance that Sean said he is grateful to have had.

“We just met God’s right hand,” he said. “It’s the best possible way to start a marriage.”

The couple also was able to bring their baptismal shell, which Pope Francis blessed. They plan to use it for their children’s baptisms.

“This way we can keep passing the blessings down,” Sean said.

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Myers Park grad receives Girl Scout honor

Morgan Ferone, a Myers Park High School graduate, was recently honored by the leaders of the Girls Scouts Hornets’ Nest Council with the Young Woman of Distinction award presented by TIAA-CREF.

A Girl Scout for 13 years, Ferone, 19, earned the award for her work in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM), as well as her dedication to environmental leadership and community service, according to a press release.

To qualify, Ferone had to first achieve the Hornet’s Nest Council Gold Award, which she accomplished by creating a curriculum to teach children the basics of physics, according to the release. Ferone implemented her lesson plans, which focused on gravity and momentum, laws of motion, waves and sound and magnets and states of matter, at Freedom School Partner’s summer program in 2013.

Ferone said she wanted to write an elementary school level curriculum because she remembers being intimated by physics when she first entered middle school.

“I enjoyed teaching the lessons,” she said. “The kids reacted positively.”

Ferone said she was in charge of training teams of volunteers to help teach the lessons.

“It was really valuable project management experience,” she said. “It allowed me to pursue other things that I might not have thought myself qualified for.”

Ferone, now a sophomore at UNC Chapel Hill, spent this past summer building on her Girl Scout community service and leadership skills at the Urban Ministry Center in Charlotte, a nonprofit that helps the homeless by providing meals, counseling services, transportation and other needs.

“It’s really important to address the issues of homelessness in the community,” she said. “It was an amazing example that commitment and passion are unstoppable forces in our community.”

The center has since developed a Homeless Awareness Patch for Girl Scouts of all ages, Ferone said.

A panel narrowed down the Gold Award recipients and community leaders, including TIAA-CREF senior vice president Kathryn Karlic, voted on four Young Woman of Distinction honorees, according to the release.

Ferone was recognized during the Women of Distinction annual event Sept. 9 at the Westin Charlotte.

Amanda Harris is a freelance writer: