In search of family, not perfection

Bridgit Dowden, 26, and Joseph Eastgate, 31, came to Philadelphia from Brisbane, Australia to see the pope. They spent $10,000 on plane tickets and traveled for 17 hours to make it, and are staying with a family in Norristown. But they are no strangers to traveling to see Pope Francis, whom they have seen in Germany, Spain, Brazil and elsewhere and whom they plan to see in Poland next year at World Youth Day.

They walked for three hours to see the pope while they were in Germany and braved millions to see him in Brazil. They stood in a security line for about two hours Sunday to get to the Parkway to watch the pope celebrate Mass.

"There's always lots of security but never this bad," Bridgit Dowden said. 

Both she and Joseph said they have never seen anything like the line they have been in for more than two hours to get through security to get to the Parkway.

The couple, both high school teachers who married nine months ago, came to the World Meeting of Families especially  to hear the pope's messages on family as they start their own. They said the pope's words about family struggle gave them hope for their own new marriage, which has its ups and downs. 

Dowden said they are learning to love in a "more realistic way."

"Usually, you see pictures of perfect families who all love each other and it's not the reality," she said. 

She said she appreciates the pope's honesty in saying family takes work. "He's speaking to so many, but he's also speaking directly to us," she said.

They watched Saturday night as families spoke at the Festival of Families about the difficulties they have faced. "It means our marriage is normal," Joseph Eastgate said.

They said the love they have in their marriage comes from their faith.

"If we didn't have the church, we would probably not still be married," Joseph Eastgate said.

Both sets of their parents have been married for more than 30 years and the couple said their parents are their inspiration in marriage and faith. They plan to pass their faith on to their own children if they have them.