You know that conference buzz? That electric energy that runs through your veins as you see people connect with one another and immersing themselves in the event you planned? Philadelphia is bursting at the seams with that same kind of energy this week.
I’m on-site in Philadelphia attending the World Meeting of Families, the event that prompted Pope Francis’ visit to the United States. Let me tell you, this city is humming. They powers that be have been planning this conference for the last two years,and have been anticipating the official Papal visit since last September. Now, they’re less than 24 hours from the Holy Father’s presence in their city, and native Philadelphians are equally as excited as the 17,000 people that have been in the city for the WMOF conference this week.
Discover Philadelphia‘s CEO and President Jack Ferguson knows what kind of opportunity this is for his city. “We’re on the world stage. There’s no question about it,” he said yesterday during a press briefing. This afternoon, he sat with me and talked through the economic impact of this event and what it means to the city, but he kept coming back to the emotional impact of a visit from the Pope. “I mean, the bottom line is that this is priceless.”
There are so many interesting logistical challenges hosting the World Meeting of Families would pose for any city, and it has been fascinating to see how Philadelphia has accommodated the needs of travelers from all over the globe. Multilingual volunteers are manning both the information desks at the airport as well as the registration booths at the convention center, and translation headsets have been available at all of the general sessions.
It’s inspiring to be around people speaking languages I don’t recognize, and brings to the forefront the primary reason we meet face-to-face in a digital world: when people share something so crucial to their lives as their faith, there is power in gathering in the same space and relating on a new level. No matter the language being spoken.