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York countian en route to pope practices religion beyond the pew


Lots of people would like to hug Pope Francis, and Arlette Figdore of Conewago Township is no exception.

To prepare for her journey to see the pope in Philadelphia on Sunday, she purchased several buttons she intends to wear at the papal Mass on Sunday, one of which proudly boasts her wish, reading: "I want to hug Pope Francis."

Even though a young girl who was watching the papal parade in Washington, D.C., on Wednesday was able to sneak through the pope's security to snag a hug, Figdore doesn't expect to be so lucky.

"This trip is going to be chaotic and probably even painful," Figdore said. "I probably won't even actually get to see the pope, but I've still gotta go."

Figdore, who is 65 and an "ex-New Yorker," isn't so worried about the crowds and the extensive amount of walking at the event.

"If a man who is older than me and has one lung can do all this, and travel around the world, who am I not to try a little harder?" she said. "I'm getting old, my knees sound like Rice Krispies, and I need to recharge the battery."

And Figdore said she expects meeting Pope Francis, whom she particularly admires, will do the trick.

Recharge: "I just adore him in that he does break the mold," Figdore said. "Mainline denominations can be a little stuffy, but he isn't like that. He calls us to be humble. He does the unexpected and acknowledges us all as God's children."

When Figdore first tried to get tickets for the event, the Diocese of Harrisburg's servers crashed, but she was determined to be a part of the crowd being touched by the pope's blessing.

"I could not miss the opportunity to go to this Mass," Figdore said, adding that after a couple of page refreshes, she was able to get her tickets.

"Mass is a massive recharge. ... You want to talk about diversity? There will be people there of every walk of life, every age, every ethnicity, and the Mass is going to be in a different language. But we're all coming together to get that recharge."

Figdore said she's looking forward to seeing how other people respond, both during and in the time following the Mass.

"This isn't just about the pope, this is about what we should do," Figdore said. "We're all getting excited for this visit, but it's about what we do after, too.

"The bottom line is I'm happy, I'm so very happy, and I hope I can give it to everyone else too, just charge their hearts and their minds."

Blessed: Figdore was raised a Lutheran. Three years ago, she and her husband Phillip — who will join her on the papal pilgrimage — made the switch to Catholicism after being moved by an Easter vigil Mass.

"It's made a big difference in my life," she said.

"Here on our farm, we live a Christ-centered life, and we try to remember that we're blessed to be a blessing."

The phrase "blessed to be a blessing" is a personal mantra of Figdore's; the concept is rooted in several Bible verses that emphasize the importance of apostolizing and sharing faith with others.

"It's based in the hope that actions speak louder than words, which the pope seems to prove a lot," she said. "Whenever you see him photographed, he's always reaching out. I think the church in some ways has lost that human touch. It's about us being blessings to each other, it's about us reaching out, it's about humanity."

Figdore's faith is more about feeding the homeless than sitting in a church pew, she said, something that Pope Francis also seems to embody.

— Reach Jessica Schladebeck at jschladebeck@yorkdispatch.com.