Those who brought Francis to Philly wait to bid him goodbye

As the faithful flocked to the Parkway for a historic public Mass, some of those closest to the papal visit coming to fruition -- organizers, volunteers, donors -- are watching on screens.

Inside a Philadelphia airport hangar, with rumbling airplanes in the background, several hundred selected guests happily opted to skip the Mass in favor of bidding a personal goodbye to Pope Francis.

Francis is expected to arrive at the hangar for an "expression of gratitude" before he departs for Rome at 8 p.m. and ends his first trip to the United States.

"It's been a wonderful two days," said Jim Kenney, a former Democratic Councilman and Democratic nominee to succeed Mayor Michael Nutter. Kenney brought his parents, Barbara, 76, and Jim, 80.

"I think the pope will leave the city a better place than before he came," Kenney said. Francis reminded us that "we can't just turn our heads to people in need."

(Full text of Pope Francis's farewell address [PDF])

Many said the pope's visit has so far met all expectations. "Exceeded" them, actually, said Jim Kaiser, who sits on the World Meeting of Families board of directors. Kaiser said organizers were "close" to their $45 million fundraising goal.

"This is the culmination of what we've all worked on for several years," Kaiser said.

But with hours to go before the pope's departure, at least one anticipated event had yet to occur. I asked Wawa CEO Chris Gheysens, also at the hangar, what had become of the prospect of serving Francis a hoagie of his choice -- an idea Mayor Nutter floated during the opening of Wawa's Center City flagship store this month.

"I think that was tongue-in-cheek," Gheysens laughed. Francis "is on a schedule that I can look at in awe. He has better things to do."