By Seth Gonzales
PHILADELPHIA — Cancer is a formidable opponent, but Joann Roa knows she has a powerful ally in Pope Francis.
A caretaker for her mother Rosa, who is fighting stage four ovarian cancer back in Long Island, New York, Roa sought a place along the papal motorcade route before the pontiff arrived at the Benjamin Franklin Parkway for Mass Sept. 27.
Touting a sign in Spanish briefly explaining her mother’s situation, Roa simply hoped to get Pope Francis to pray for her mother.
She said his words have given her consolation during some very difficult times.
“It is very hard, but we believe that nothing is impossible with God,” said Roa, who also volunteered with the World Meeting of Families. “We believe in what he tells us: to have faith and to have joy in suffering. He gives me that consolation and strength to keep going and to keep loving.”
Adding to her family’s grief was the death of her father Jose in this past July. Roa said she was inspired by the way her father gave his life in service to the church as a deacon for 35 years, and to her mother during her illness.
Despite the cross she and her family are bearing, Roa said Pope Francis has given her hope through his gestures of love, humility and mercy.
“(Pope Francis) is teaching me to smile on the outside even though it’s hard on the inside,” Joann said.
Though the suffering her family has been through might be great, she said she believes it’s happening for a reason and has faith that her mother will be healed in some way, shape or form.
“I believe we’re all called to suffering because it’s redemptive, it’s purifying,” Joann said. “It brings us closer to Christ, and this is what our Holy Father calls for, each and every one of us. It’s worth it to strive for holiness.”
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