At 11th hour, called to see the pope

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Sister Mercy Egbeji from Pittsburgh lines the Parkway for the papal mass of Pope Francis in Philadelphia Sunday September 27, 2015. ( DAVID SWANSON / Staff Photographer )

Many in the crowds this weekend were last-minute pilgrims, persuaded to come to the Parkway by friends and family, or given tickets when they thought all were gone.  Or, in the case of Russell DeStefano, 55, a business manager at St. Paul's parish in the Italian Market, fear of missing out.

DeStefano said had previously given away his two tickets to the Mass.  "I had two friends coming from California. They didn't have tickets."

He wasn't eager to face the crowds anyway. But after watching about 10 hours of coverage Saturday, he called his pastor around 2 p.m. The parish had only one ticket left.

"I ran over.

Sister Mercy Agbeji, of Pittsburgh, expected she would only be able to see Pope Francis from afar, "and wave and wave."

But on Sunday, someone saw the nun in her pristine light violet habit  and said "Sister, I have an extra ticket. Take it."

"Can you imagine?" she said excitedly holding up the ticket. "God is so wonderful."

Egbeji, who is originally from Nigeria and is now a member of Daughters of Mary, had seen Pope John Paul II in Rome.  But Francis, she said, "is a pope for the poor, for peace, for unity and love."

Bruna Campos Costa, 29, said she "would have been just fine watching on CNN."   But her mom, a devout Catholic from Brazil who carries a Bible in her handbag, said "watching it on TV just would not have been the same."  She wanted to take communion at a Mass presided by the Holy Father.

They arose before dawn Sunday, took a train from Wilmington, Del., spent an hour in security line, and promptly plopped down to rest on a curb in front of the Basilica of Sts. Peter and Paul.