Joyful Pilgrims
April 21, 2022

The title of this blog might seem odd outside the context of Thanksgiving.  But these words from Father Bill Donovan, which served as the front page headline of The Philadelphia Inquirer on March 27, might perfectly describe one of the most amazing experiences of my life.

Beyond my role as chairman and CEO of ParenteBeard, I am also privileged to serve as president of the World Meeting of Families. This Vatican event occurs every three years (Milan hosted in 2012) and is coming to the United States – specifically Philadelphia – for the first time in September 2015.   With it traditionally comes a visit from the pope. A few weeks ago, I was part of a delegation that traveled to Rome to ask Pope Francis to attend the World Meeting in Philadelphia.

Meeting Pope Francis – or any pope for that matter – wasn’t something I ever envisioned happening in my life. The thought of it was awe-inspiring but in reality, it was so much more.  One of the most surreal moments of the visit to Rome was when the Pennsylvania delegation – led by Archbishop Chaput, Governor Corbett and Mayor Nutter – was escorted through the front doors of St. Peter’s Basilica and greeted by 75,000 cheering people from around the world, all awaiting the arrival of Pope Francis on the square.

Not many CEOs would admit to their knees shaking before meeting someone but mine did before meeting him.  And I wasn’t alone.  Although many of us in the delegation of 24 had only met each other for the first time a few days earlier, we shared an incomparable experience.  It didn’t matter if we were Republican or Democrat, Catholic or non-Catholic.  We were united – and now bonded – by the same sentiment, “Is this really happening?”

It did and that’s why “Joyful Pilgrims” is a perfect descriptor.  We were exactly that in Rome.  But being home, I now realize that we must sustain that same joyfulness in planning the World Meeting of Families over the next 18 months.  I am confident that Pope Francis will come here but I realize that if he does, Philadelphia will be center stage for the world and we must deliver.  As spectacular a scene as it was in Rome, nothing will compare to the scene we are all working toward – when Philadelphia welcomes Pope Francis.

For more information about the World Meeting of Families, visit And if you’re interested in learning more or helping, let me know.

Thanks for stopping by.

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