Pope Francis

Pope Francis - Philadelphia

When Pope Francis visited the United States in September 2015, I was on the streets of Philadelphia covering his historic visit with a groundbreaking millennial citizen journalist group called the Pope Is Hope Digital Street Team.

In Philadelphia, I was joined by more than a dozen other young adult journalists watching popemania take over. On the streets, I document the pontiff's visit using social media - Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat - to highlight how #GoodIsWinning before, during and after the papal visit. 

During my journey, I met people from all walks of life.

Like Daniel, the security guard who survived getting shot six times. His toddler daughter was his inspiration to work several graveyard shifts during the papal visit.

Or Luke, who helped put together the Our Lady Undoer of Knots Grotto that Pope Francis visited and blessed on his last day in Philadelphia.

Just the same with Taneli, who entered the convent at the very next month. Her joy was infectious.

And the pair of sisters, just two of the seven siblings, who visited the Grotto in a daily vigil to write knots for each of their family members. They couldn't find their knots from the day before, that's because someone prayed for them and moved their knots up closer to the sky.

Also, Tabitha, whose great-grandma passed away Easter Sunday 2015, and her grandma who still struggles daily losing her own grandma. Tabitha's grandma kept all of the family jewelry after the rough hospice experience. "This is all I have left of her," she told me, her voice cracking.

Before heading to Philly though, I wrote Pixels of Hope, a story about how a Houston photographer captured good amidst tragedy through photos.

Our group was documented by national media.

CBS Evening News followed us around Philadelphia, sharing our mission on national television. the crew chased us around The Cathedral Basilica of Sts. Peter and Paul, up and down Benjamin Franklin Parkway and even up the famous Rocky Steps.

Elite Daily, a media outlet focused on today’s young people with more than three million subscribers, followed our entire team from each of the three cities to produce this short documentary.

Mashable, the popular global media site, broke the news about our major project: The Pope Emoji App.

That Pope Emoji app was a finalist for The Shorty Awards. The #GoodIsWinning campaign was also a finalist for a Shorty Award.

Four Snapchat videos I produced landed on the first-ever global live news story about a pope, garnering an estimated 12 million views. My videos featured groups from Spain, The Philippines and New York, as well as Philly. The first video highlighted the thousands of Pope Emoji fans we distributed throughout the event.

In the end, the campaign drew coverage from The Huffington Post, The Daily Show, SNL, The Today Show, Washington Post, Time Magazine, Aleteia, The Philadelphia Inquirer and more.

But our focus wasn't only world-wide, we sought the heart of Philly. And the heart of Philly opened its arms to us. Our HQ was located at Project HOME, a Philly non-profit dedicated to empowering people to break the cycle of poverty. We joined former clients of the center in telling the story of Philadelphia and the pope. When I met Sister Mary Scullion on an elevator, I had no idea that I met a world-changing consecrated religious woman.

I’ll never forget this group or this trip. It was seriously one of the wildest, most unexpected and profound experiences in my life. In the streets of Philadelphia, my life experienced true mercy and grace.

I never got to shake Pope Francis’ hand or take a selfie with him either, but my encounter with Pope Francis left a permanent mark on my heart that will take me a lifetime to understand. But today, I embrace his message of hope, mercy and joy and run as fast as I can.