By Laura Ieraci
PHILADELPHIA (CNS) — Meet the Bowes: a Catholic family of five who will be among the first people to greet Pope Francis when he steps off the plane in Philadelphia Saturday morning.
They will stand alongside Archbishop Charles J. Chaput of Philadelphia and Mayor Michael Nutter and will welcome the pope on behalf of all Catholic families in the archdiocese.
Richard and Bernadette Bowes, married 15 years, have three children: Matthew, 12, Riley, 11, and Gabrielle, 9.
The Bowes stand out as a nurturing family of faith, love and humility, according to their pastor, Msgr. Joseph Gavin.
The Bowes also bear witness to the power of faith and family in the face of violence and trauma.
In 2008, Richard was shot while serving as a Philadelphia police officer and had to undergo multiple surgeries to repair damage to his pelvis. Fellow officer Patrick McDonald was not so fortunate and was killed in the incident. Now retired from the police force, Richard works for the U.S. Attorney’s Office.
Organizers of the World Meeting of Families surprised the Bowes with the invitation to greet the pope just a few weeks ago, after a Sunday Mass at St. Christopher’s Parish, where the Bowes worship.
Bernadette said she was “very surprised, humbled and grateful beyond belief” by the invitation. She said her second thought was that she “was not worthy” of such a gift. She said she is grateful her children will have this experience.
Richard said they are trying to include the entire community at their parish in this experience by keeping them in prayer when they meet the pope.
If they have a chance to speak with the pontiff, the couple said they will ask him to bestow a blessing of peace on the world, on peacekeepers and on sick children.
Philadelphia native, Jerry Davis, his wife, Anna, daughter Kim, and grandson, Jordan, will also have a role to play during the papal visit. They will participate in the offertory procession at the papal Mass at the Cathedral Basilica of SS. Peter and Paul Sept. 26.
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