ROCKFORD, Mich. — As Pope Francis continues his historic U.S. trip, a West Michigan family is hoping to get a front row seat.
Three generations of the Pereira family from Rockford are preparing to board a bus this Friday headed for Philadelphia to see the Pope as he wraps up his visit.
“It’s our way as family to say 'this is an important way to say who we are' and establish it at a young age," said John Ashmore, who is looking forward to taking his young grandkids on the trip.
Ashmore, who is a deacon in Cedar Springs, said the trip will not only provide an opportunity to create memories—especially for his young grandsons who are just 6 and 8 years old—but a family legacy while in the midst of a Pope whose own legacy has already been a major force within the Catholic church.
“It’s about re-enlivening the church, bringing the spirit back to the forefront and it’s really about saying to people ‘we’re in this together,'" Ashmore said.
Amy Pereira said she continues to be inspired by what Pope Francis has done and continues to do for the church and the impact he's had well beyond just Catholics.
“Definitely people are very open to speaking about him, whether they’re Catholic or not," she said. "I think that’s awesome that he’s uniting people of different faiths and bringing us together."
The family will travel to Philadelphia with a group of others from the area to attend a special Papal Mass on Sunday, an opportunity Pereira says she never could've imagined after seeing Pope John Paul II while in Toronto more than a decade ago.
"This was an inspiration of why we wanted to go together as a family," she said, holding up a picture she took of Pope John Paul II during that Toronto trip. "
Never did I think when went to Toronto I’d be taking my kids now and my family to see Pope Francis.”
But above all, Pereira said the family is considering this less like a trip, and more like a pilgrimage, one that's about helping and sharing teh prayers of others before themselves.
“It’s an opportunity for us to pray for other people, an opportunity to serve other people," she said.