Anniversary of Pope Francis' USA Visit

One year ago Philadelphia was making final preparations for Pope Francis' visit to the United States. As I take a look back over the last year, and the social campaign I co-created to help announce his historic visit, I can't help but feel nostalgic about #PopeInPhilly and the great people I met during the Pop Up Pope Campaign.

Inspired By Pope Francis

The Pop Up Pope Campaign was inspired by Pope Francis. When I learned he was coming to the United States early in 2015 I was still spiritually high from seeing him in Rome in 2014. Being in Pope Francis' presence in St. Peter's Square was a gift. The positive energy and loving kindness Pope Francis emits isn't just palpable, it's infectious.

Me, in the front row (red jacket), November 2014, St. Peter's Square, Rome

While pressed up against the barricade in the front row of the square with thousands of other pilgrims behind me I felt like Pope Francis was sending us all life saving doses of unconditionally love. I felt like God was right by my side, giving me an "atta girl" and a warm fatherly hug. It was truly bliss.

Immediately upon learning Pope Francis was set to come to the United States, specifically my home town of Philadelphia, a sigh of relief washed over me. I thought...

Would Pope Francis' visit to Philadelphia soften hearts and minds?

If people could feel the sense of love, hope and kindness I did while in Rome perhaps they would become inspired to be nicer to one another, pay closer attention to the poor of spirit and shine light into the dark places of people's lives instead of sowing anger and hatred.

Admiring Cardinal Bergoglio for Tapping the Name Francis

My admiration for Jorge Mario Bergoglio began when it was first announced he'd take the name of my favorite saint, Francis. As a former student of St. Francis of Assisi grade school, I knew how awesome St. Francis was and now, Cardinal Bergoglio was giving the famous holy man from Assisi some serious respect. Very cool. I knew taking the name Francis would be a game changer at the Vatican, and the last few years have proven this to be true.

Social Campaign Was Born

My friend Paul Tanner and I saw a cardboard pope being used in the Philippines to promote his visit in 2014. We saw how excited people got and how compelled they were to take selfies with the pope's standee. When the pope "popped up" anywhere in the world, people took notice, snapped photos and got inspired.

With the spirit of St. Francis rooted in my psyche and Pope Francis' magnetic energy lighting my spirit, Paul and I gave birth to the Pop Up Pope project:

  • What if we buy our own pope standee and use it to announce the Holy Father's USA visit?

  • Why not "take to the streets" as Pope Francis has asked us and interact with people of all denominations and persuasions?

  • Let's use social media to encourage people to pray for Pope Francis, promote the World Meeting of Families and spread some love!

We purchased a cardboard pope from Australia (which, by the way, pops into place) and gave birth to the Pop Up Pope project in early 2015. We used social media, specifically Twitter and Instagram, to rally support and alert friends and fans of Francis as to our whereabouts on the street. We engaged Catholics and non-Catholics, and, for the most part, loved every minute of our interactions with people we met (save being attacked by an angry skateboarder in Love Park).

World Meeting of Families

Having the Holy Father in my home town was beyond thrilling.

Here I am shamelessly posing for a selfie after picking up my papal mass ticket. Can you say happy?

It is hard to pick just one stand-out moment at the World Meeting of Families. There were so many. I recall being proud of Philadelphia, especially the non-Catholics (not familiar with the Catholic sacraments), for being so respectfully and quiet during the Mass. Everyone hung on each word Pope Francis said. On September 26, 2016, Pope Francis fever transformed into Pope Francis bliss. All was well in the world. Philadelphia had come together in the spirit of true brotherly love. It was, in one word: awesome!

Pop Up Pope Earns Media

The two and a half minute video below spotlights the inspiration for the Pop Up Pope project, the street and social campaign and the earned media we received from the likes of, Associated Press (print article and video), Delaware Online, PHL17, Catholic News Agency and a wider image feature in Reuters.

Campaign More Than A Selfie Fest

Getting a selfie with the pope is like winning the Catholic lottery, even if you're not Catholic. However, the campaign was more than a pope selfie fest. That's why the media picked it up. The Pop Up Pope campaign was about connecting with people in real time. Shaking hands. Giving hugs. Offering smiles. Listening. Engaging. Offering help. Loving people where they are...especially the least among us. Our campaign had meaning and it resonated with people from all backgrounds, even non-Catholics.

Perhaps the biggest take-away from the Pop Up Pope project and campaign was that we met people who had lost faith but found a rekindled spirit in the concept of God thanks to Pope Francis. People, like my own sister, told me they were inspired to help the homeless and give more to people in need because of our outreach efforts inspired by Pope Francis.

CLICK HERE to learn more about our inspiration in our own words and view the hundreds of curated cardboard pope photos from around the world.

If you're looking for a campaign idea, social strategy, video, outreach person, copywriter, event organizer or an outgoing public speaker who thrives on engagement and amplifying great messages, contact me at or by phone at (302) 593-3913.

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