After Mass, many still reeling

After the Mass concluded and people streamed away from the Parkway, a trio from Toledo, Ohio, stayed to wait out the crowds and ruminate on what they had just seen.

Gloria Martinez, 68, kept her eyes on Pope Francis as long as she could -- as he entered the Parkway, during the service.

"I could see him light up when he saw babies and little children," said Martinez, a retired college administrator. "But then, during the Mass, he was in a different state, a very spiritual state. I don't even know how to describe it."

Her daughter Monica Martinez, 33, who works for the Diocese of Toledo, said she felt inspired by the pope's message, and it was clear that others did, too.

"There's this spirit of gratitude everywhere," Monica Martinez said. "People are caring about each other. We have a purpose."

The open-air Mass, with hundreds of priests and hundreds of thousands of congregants, was a once-in-a-lifetime thrill, she said.

"I've never seen a pope before," said Monica Martinez.

"I am emotional," Nancy Crowley said after the mass, standing on the Parkway as they packed up folding chairs. "I can't even talk."

The couple stood for four hours in line and just made it onto the Parkway as the mass was beginning -- but they, like so many others, said it was worth it.

"Seeing the fellowship, everyone holding hands," Nancy Crowley said. "It's euphoric. I think that's the only word for it. It's what you want a pope to be."

Her husband, Fran, said this pope is what the church needs today.

"He was able to deliver tough messages at times when he was here, but he always did it in a loving way," Fran Crowley said. 

At the Paoli station, the first pilgrims returned by 6:20 p.m., tired but jubilant.

"Awesome, just awesome. It was overwhelming, said Ann Kavanaugh, 58, a volunteer from Berwyn.

Although her initial assignment was outside the perimeter of the Mass area, "They needed me here, there and next thing you know..." she was 10 feet away from the pope when he arrived, and had video and photos to prove it.

"It was magical, " said Kathy Massey, 59, of West Chester. On Saturday, she had reserved seats for the festival and got within 30 feet of the pope. Today, she volunteered.

Others weren't so lucky.  Jean and Jen Bradley had tickets for the mass but still didn't get in because the security line was too long. 

"We were 100 yards away and they stopped letting people in," said Jen, 40, of King of Prussia, who said she got the tickets from someone on the security detail.

They had stood in line for hours, holding their bulky folding chairs. After that, Bradley and her 80-year-old mother in law left and went back to the train.