As part of the World Meeting of Families, Pope Francis will make a whirlwind visit to three U.S. cities this month. During the week of Sept. 22-27 the pope will visit Washington, D.C., New York City and Philadelphia.
Pope Francis will arrive at the nation's capital the afternoon of Tuesday, Sept. 22. The following day he will visit the White House and have a private meeting with President Obama.
The pope will hold a mid-day prayer with the bishops of the United States at the Cathedral of St. Matthew the Apostle.
In the afternoon, the pope will celebrate Mass on the east portico of the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception and the University Mall at the Catholic University of America. During the Mass, he will canonize Blessed Junipero Serra.
All seminarians and religious novices from the U.S. have been invited to attend the canonization Mass. Following the Mass, Pope Francis will speak to these folks and see the vibrancy and faith-filled joy of those responding to the call to the priesthood and religious life in our country.
Father Joseph C. Gatto, president/rector of Christ the King Seminary in East Aurora, Msgr. Richard Siepka, director of Spiritual Formation for the seminary, and Father Robert Wozniak, member of the priestly formation team, will represent Christ the King Seminary at the Mass, bringing with them 36 students from the seminary and four other members of the CKS formation team. Details are still being worked out. The pope is expected to walk through the basilica and address the seminarians and novices at some point during the Mass.
"Pope Francis will meet with seminarians and novices that can attend in the National Shrine to talk about their vocations, to talk to them about their call to priesthood and ministry," said Father Gatto. "That's one of the reasons we feel it is so important for us to take our guys down there. One to experience the immensity and the canonization, but also to have a firsthand experience of Pope Francis."
Father Wozniak is eager to hear his message for the men and women in religious formation.
"He's very down to earth. He's just so alive with the faith," Father Wozniak said. "We're excited to hear what he's going to challenge the American people with in living out the Gospel message. Our focus on this trip is how is he going to instill in the American Church a vision for us to live out this Gospel message."
Six Buffalo deacons will have an active role in the Mass distributing Communion, and local priests will concelebrate.
It is unsure how close anyone will be to Pope Francis, or if anyone will be able speak to him. Given the chance, Father Gatto would like to thank Pope Francis for what he has done for the Catholic faith.
"Thank you for being such a great witness, a great shepherd of the flock. Thank you for coming to the United States. Thank you for taking time to meet with the seminarians and to convey to them you're hopes for their ministry and their priesthood," he said. "The greatness of this pope is not just what he says, it's actually his actions which correspond so perfectly to what thinks and how things are going."
Father Wozniak wishes to thank the people who have sponsored the seminarians on this trip. Bulletins announcements about the trip were placed in the parishes where the seminarians held summer assignments.
"We have been supported very well on the endeavor by people sponsoring our seminarians to go on this pilgrimage, and we're very grateful to everybody for allowing us to be able to do this," Father Wozniak said.
The Mass is expected to see representatives of religious life as part of the Year of Consecrated Life, Catholic Charities in honor of the pope's concern for the poor, as well as Latino and Native American communities.
On Thursday, Sept. 24, Pope Francis will address a joint meeting of the U.S. Congress, then visit St. Patrick Church to meet with several clients of Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of Washington. He will then fly to New York City.