“A Blessing in Disguise”…We are truly blessed.

Our trip to Washington D.C. to cover Pope Benedict’s first visit to the States is a perfect example of the cliché “a blessing in disguise.” There was a point before we left that we felt like the universe was doing anything within its power to prevent us from seeing the Holy See (pun intended). Long story short, they pre-approved us for press credentials, but then denied us access to any site outside of the media center; reason being that we are such a small news outlet and they had plenty of networks clamoring for a spot on the media platforms. However, we decided to make the trip regardless of our limited credentials. To summarize the words of our advisor, sometimes the press is on the risers in one location while the real story is happening across the street. With that thought on our minds, we packed up the LCTV gear and headed out to DC… and across the street. Little did we know that Washington D.C. held a treasure chest of life lessons for us.

Our first hidden treasure came in the form we were searching for- the stories no one else gets to tell. The day before the Pope’s arrival, we stopped by the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception to see if we could get some video of their preparations for Papal Visit 2008. We stopped at the information desk where we met three elderly women with sparkling personalities and true hearts of gold. They were all volunteers, in charge of answering phones and guiding the occasional tour. They giggled as they told us how excited they were to see the Pope the next day. They looked at it as God’s way of paying them for all their years of service to the church, “just one of the benefits we get from working here,” as one of them said. After their interviews, they pointed us in the direction of the chapel where the Pope would be spending time in private prayer. While capturing video of the sacred place, we were approached by a family who asked us if we were with the “regular media.” We explained who we were and what we were doing and to our surprise, they revealed that they were friends with the Pope when he was still a cardinal. They had spent three years in Rome, looking to him for spiritual guidance. Stories like that can’t be found from the press box. They only happen if you open your mind to the possibility that a story can be found anywhere. As a journalist, that’s a pretty important lesson to learn.

Treasure number two came again in the faces of the faithful. The Pope “paraded” down Pennsylvania Avenue after his meeting at the White House and thousands of people lined the streets, straining for a glimpse of the pontiff. The flood of the faithful continued the next day with the mass at Nationals Stadium. The stadium seats over 40,000 and tickets were hard to come by, but that didn’t stop people from coming out that day in hopes of securing themselves a seat of their own. There was a crowd of people who didn’t get inside the stadium, but remained at the gates to watch and participate in the mass through the outdoor screen. One woman from the Philippines was so overjoyed when Pope Benedict XVI appeared on the screen that she began to cry and wave at the screen. Her faith brought her to the stadium that day, and even though she didn’t get a ticket, she still felt truly blessed- another woman with a heart of gold. On the other side of the street were the protestors, bound and determined to let the Catholic Church know that they were wrong and that there was still time to be “born again.” Although it was challenging as a Catholic to experience that level of loathing, it was yet another lesson about faith. If someone is willing to evangelize their faith over a loudspeaker, no matter what denomination it may be, especially in an environment that was clearly adverse to their own beliefs, that’s a sure sign their faith is pretty strong. It was definitely a blessing to be a witness to faith that knows no boundaries and refuses to accept any limitations.

A third treasure was more of a realization as a result of what we had seen. The word “Catholic” means “universal.” We’ve never seen that concept demonstrated as clearly as it was last week. From the family who had lived in Rome befriending Cardinal Ratzinger to the Philippine woman who had brought her own stool to sit on in case she got tired while waiting for the Pope, we saw all kinds. The faces of the faithful ranged from the young and the innocent to the old and experienced, from Hispanic to Caucasian, from Bob the auto-mechanic to Mary the news producer at CBS Washington. How appropriate that the head of the Catholic church drew together people from across the nation and around the globe: the committed Catholics thrilled to be so close to their devoted leader, members of other denominations who came just out of respect (or to express their own beliefs), the people that planned the events, the site coordinators, the maintenance staff at the Basilica, the journalists who worked tirelessly to share the event with the public, the vendors who memorabilia on the streets (also known as “history on a stick”). They were not all Catholic– and they didn’t have to be– but they were all there, and they were all working together for the same cause– to make sure Pope Benedict XVI was warmly welcomed in the land of the free. Being with our universal Catholic family and in a sea of faithful people from every walk of life just made us stop and think about our family here at Loras- a blessing that we too often take for granted.

We’ll stop there for now, knowing that we found too many treasures to share and acknowledging the fact that we haven’t even been home for a week yet. Unfortunately we can’t say that we met the Pope, or that we even got close to him (although we did see him through the camera lens). What we did see was an amazing and powerful witness of faith; Catholics and Non-Catholics, young and old, journalists and non-journalists.  The Pope drew quite a crowd, and we were blessed to be a part of it. It will take some time to realize and fully appreciate just what an awesome event we witnessed as we witnessed a piece of history. We are truly blessed.

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The Devil Wears Prada…the Pope does not!!!

So since i’ve been back people have asked me about the Pope’s red shoes, and to be honest I didn’t know the deal with them…until this morning. 

http://www.poynter.org/column.asp?id=2&aid=141872

FUN FACT…thanks to Al Tompkin’s for finding out all that stuff. 

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Protesters, Anti-Catholic Chants, and THE FAITHFUL…all in the same place.

Let’s talk about how crazy things were Thursday.  Well I should say that Wednesday after spending the afternoon writing and show and sending our video, we headed back to Heidi’s for a BBQ.  Yep, we celebrated Benedict’s 81st birthday! haha no but seriously…it was fun. she had her co-workers over and we met a bunch of people who work at the Capital.  So Thursday morning we woke up at like 6:30 or something and got dressed to go to Nationals Stadium.  Half asleep, we got on the Metro and got off at the stop titled “Stadium”.  I can remember wondering why the heck we hadn’t seen tons of people at the Metro stop or why no one was walking around outside the stadium. And then at the same time, Kate and I realized that we were at the wrong stadium.  The soccer stadium.  YEAH I KNOW!  what kind of journalists are we? Well if our live truck would have been fixed maybe we would have been able to drive there NOT take the Metro (let me note that we don’t actually have a livetruck, but it became the on going joke).  So we hopped back on the Metro and headed towards Navy Yard (the proper stop).  Only it was so chaotic!!! one of the metro cars broke down and they had to empty it.  So the platform was packed with more people then there were trains to take us there.  Kate and I snuck around to the front and loaded onto the first car.

So we made it there!!  The scene was almost overwhelming.  People flooding out of the Metro and onto the Nationals Stadium grounds.  Pro-Life groups handing our bumper stickers, people singing…and what I found most interesting…people holding “Need Tickets” signs.  Yep…just like outside a baseball game in the summer.  I saw this as a great story.  I mean, look at these faithful, here despite the fact that they don’t have tickets.  I found myself wanting to take off my “journalist hat” and make a sign too.  I really wanted to go inside to see the mass.  REALLY BAD!  but in other news…we got to the scene before many journalists did but there was a lady there from the network that ended up doing the same story as us…interviewing the people who were waiting for tickets.  I like to think they got the story idea from us college kids, but the truth is, it’s probably a story that everyone does every year. haha.

Anyway, a lot of people were getting tickets, so we interviewed them.  But oldly enough I could never track down the people who gave the tickets out.  It was like they handed them over and just dissapeared into the crowd.  IT was truly one of the greatest random acts of kindness I had seen.  And it sure made people happy to get tickets!!! It makes me smile thing about it.  

At some point we decided to move from our camped out spot.  We went to the other entrance and filmed the pope driving in (in his limo so we didn’t even know it was him).  This is where the scene just got crazy.  

There was a big screen TV that was broadcasting the mass for those who were outside and couldn’t get into the mass.  Such faithful people.  AMAZING the faith they had.  One woman started crying as the Pope came out into the Stadium.  She was crying “Benedicto! God Bless America” and waving at the screen.  She was singing along with the music and soo happy to be there.  We interviewed her and she reached in her bag and took out a stool that she brought “In case I get tired” she said…and laughed.  Her joy and faith was so amazing to me.  Here is a woman who can’t get into the actual mass to see the Pope, yet she’s so touched by the fact that she’s in the presence of the man that she’s thrilled.  Here I am wishing I was inside…but I realized why I wasn’t…i needed to see the faith in that woman. 

So within about 5 mins, all chaos broke out.  All the protesters moved from the streets to the stadium entrance, megaphones and all.  Shouting things like “you worship a dead woman” (Mary).  “you never took jesus down from the cross” “you kill him every Sunday when you sacrifice him at the alter” and random illogical and ignorant comments.  I found it hard, i wanted to say something these people.  Like I have nothing wrong with being against the Catholic church and I know it isn’t perfect, but SERIOUSLY people we all believe in the same God.  And if you’re gonna put down someone’s faith, at least know the facts!  right?!?!

Perhaps the funniest part of this scene though, was Kate filming.  haha i know it sounds funny, BUT she was trying to get shots of the protesters, and she was once again in the middle of a large pack of people.  One side…the protesters, the otherside…Pro-life people praying the rosary. haha I know I shouldn’t be laughing, but it was kinda funny.  I have to give everyone props for being witness to their faith.  It was like as the protesters got loud, the pro life group got louder.  And still over in one corner of the street, a group of faith watching the mass and singing along.  It was quite a scene.  I can’t really describe it as well as it was.  

So anyway, after getting plenty of vide and interviews we headed back to the media center and got some video of the feed. We had a few hours left to get shots of stuff in D.C. and “be tourists” for a bit.  So we went to the Whitehouse, I shot a stand up.  More protesters showed up. haha they really are entertaining! 

After walking around in many wrong directions, making u-turns, retracing steps…we spent that afternoon at the Modern Art Museum.  It was a nice way to finish off the trip.

Long story short, we ended up at the airport about 40 mins before our flight left.  We checked in…got through security and hit our gate right as they were boarding.  I guess you could say we don’t waste time!!

I fully intend on writing a full reflection about this whole experience when I get some time to really think about it all.  But in the meantime I can say this much…this week really was a spark for me.  It lit the fire in my passion!  It reminded me that no matter where I end up…this is what I want to do.  Being a journalist is an amazing responsibility and also an amazing opportunity and blessing! 

I am blessed. We are blessed.

 

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um- where’s our sat truck?

        

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Our Stories From D.C.

STORIES FROM D.C.

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Pope Benedict XVI is a people magnet.

As I type this entry, I’m sitting in the media center in downtown DC… in this room alone I can hear at least 8 different languages being spoken. In front of me, there are three journalists having a conversation in French. To my right, there’s a whole row of Spanish television and radio organizations; there’s a photographer in the back who is from Brazil, but now lives in NYC; and scattered about the room there are journalists from Germany, France and several other European countries; not to mention the languages that I don’t recognize. (Remember- I’m not a linguist…)

Of course, this diversity pours out onto the streets of DC- some speaking their native African tongue, others fluent in Chinese and Japanese (not that I can tell them apart…). A stop in Chinatown reveals not only Chinese cuisine, but Mexican, American, Thai, Lebanese, and even a few Irish pubs. It’s amazing the transformation that takes place when you step inside the door to escape the hustle and bustle that is DC. But I digress…

In our previous blogs and the stories we’ve cut, you’ve met some of the people we’ve met throughout Papal Visit 2008: the Hispanic Catholics from Cali, the Nebraskan family who lived in Rome, the tried and true DC residents themselves, etc. It is amazing to me that so many different people are all in the same place…. many of them for the same reason- to get a glimpse of the Holy See.

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The Bob and Tom Show…the POPEMOBILE!

Hi!

So…sometime’s when you’re a journalist, walking around with a press pass around your neck, people ask you things. Today was that kind of day, except everyone we met had a story to tell us…and all their names were BOB (okay they’re were only 2 but still).  Oh and then…okay sorry too much to tell.

After becoming famous over the radio last night, we stayed in this lovely media center editing our PAK for this week’s show…you can check it out on YouTube, and our fabulously good looking new website.  

Okay…so now.  Let’s talk about today.  After getting home last night and writing webstories and scripts for today’s show…we finally went to bed at like 2:00 (well that’s what time i attempted to go to bed).  Woke up this morning at 7:20…we were supposed to leave at 7:30. 

Running late, we couldn’t find our bus stop, so we just took the damn metro to the Russell building where we met Senator Harkin (for like 2 seconds).  We took a picture and then he had to leave to go party with the pope, or i guess i shouldn’t call it that.  But Kate and Lauren ventured over towards the Whitehouse…in hopes to get a glimpse of their time on the lawn…BUT we didn’t.  So I a phone call to our friend at CBS, Mary Walsh…she gave us a tip as to where the Pope was supposed to be later and that he might get out and walk around.  

So we headed straight there…and let’s just say KATE AND LAUREN GOT TO SEE THE PIMPED OUT POPEMOBILE…LIVE!  I think maybe it’s an oxymoron to call it pimped out, but seriously that guy has an awesome ride, and he doesn’t even get to drive it.  Lauren stood on a light pole to get the footage while kate was standing on quote “a pile of dirt surrounded by hospital employees” None the less, Kate had the handy camera and Lauren had the panasonic and we came up with some decent footage.  We’re troopers…and I now we look like lobsters.  Lauren’s sunburnt…and so is KAte…not that you care.

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