Residents of Southern New Jersey Will Serve as Volunteers in Various Capacities for the Popes Visit to Philadelphia

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A Grapevine Newspaper Feature Story


By Mickey Brandt


Last week, we described the issues deterring some local folks from attending next week’s visit of Pope Francis to Philadelphia. But now, we’ve found several people of a different mind. They are not only going, they are helping.
As Pope Francis may use holy water for Asperges to nurture souls during his mass on Sunday, September 27, Frank J. DiMauro of Newfield will distribute Wawa water in the huge crowd to nourish bodies. He’s a volunteer with the World Meeting of Families (WMOF) in conjunction with the Wawa Leadership Team. DiMauro is COO and CFO of SNJ Today, parent company of The Grapevine.
Vineland native Chris Gheysens, CEO of Wawa, ordered the creation of the volunteer group. DiMauro’s good friend, Adam Schall, who is the company’s senior director of development, recruited him.
“I was excited about it and instantly agreed,” DiMauro said. “It’s too bad so many people said they aren’t going.”
The SNJ Today executive deeply respects Pope Francis and is enamored by his progressive approach.
“I’m very inspired by this Pope,” he said. “He exemplifies love, passion, honesty, and peace. He focuses on a lot of issues the church didn’t before and is reaching out to the poor, prisoners, homosexuals, divorced people; I’m deeply moved by that.”
DiMauro pointed out that Francis has to move slowly on these issues.
“He can’t ram it down people’s throats,” he said.
DiMauro, who said he is “deeply spiritual,” isn’t ramming anything down anyone’s throat, but his own humanistic, progressive philosophy is influencing some of SNJ Today’s recent television programming. He created “Road to Recovery” with Michael DeLeon, which premièred September 1 and presents interviews with former substance addicts and their families. Later in the series, Darryl Strawberry and Patrick Kennedy will be guests. DeLeon is a former addict and ex-convict and the founder of the inspirational organization “Steered Straight.” He was a Grapevine Hometown Hero in 2011.
To be a volunteer, DiMauro had to pass extensive background checks because he will be so close to His Holiness. He was cleared directly by both the F.B.I. and U.S. Department of Homeland Security. The volunteers will report to a designated spot in New Jersey and be transported by bus into the secure zone.
“I’m excited more by this Pope than I’ve been since Vatican II. He inspires the whole world,” DiMauro said.
At our request, the WMOF media relations staff sought other Papal Visit volunteers from Cumberland County willing to talk to the media, but wasn’t able to locate any.
THROUGHOUT THE REGION, though, there are many, including Rosemarie Loughlin, an athletic specialist with Rowan College at Burlington County. She will be in Philadelphia from Friday through Monday and cover three events as a greeter and usher, including Sunday’s giant mass. She attended WMOF training in customer service.
She said, ”It’s all very exciting.”
Loughlin attended Pope John Paul II’s Philadelphia visit when she was in seventh grade in 1979.
“It was different, though,” she laughed. “There wasn’t much traffic then.”
The Medford resident will take a PATCO train from Lindenwold station to 9th and Locust strees, then walk to the Benjamin Franklin Parkway. She made it sound like a routine trip into the city for shopping or dining.
Loughlin explained that she was helping because she would like to be guided and accepted if she were visiting another place.
“I feel it’s our duty to make other people welcome, I try to do it day-to-day in my life, too,” she said.
She noted many of her friends think she’s “crazy” and tell her she “should stay home and watch it on television.” But she’s having none of that.
THERESA ZEITZ OF CHERRY HILL, a nurse, will volunteer in special services, helping the handicapped during the Papal Mass.
“I think it will be great fun,” she said.
Zeitz was fun to talk to and had the upbeat tempo in her voice and determination in her bearing common to seniors with much to live for in the years remaining.
Amazingly, she already saw Pope Francis in Vatican City last year after a spontaneous decision during a trip to Italy in connection with an interesting hobby—dragon boating. It’s a Chinese sport resembling crew with 22 paddlers, a drummer in front and a steerer in back racing other boats. Her age group 60-70 Philadelphia Flying Phoenix team has been World Club Champion and travels frequently.
She’s like Loughlin and will jump on PATCO at Woodcrest Station for what she believes will be “an easy commute” and plans to return home after the 4 p.m. mass.
“It doesn’t intimidate me at all,” she said. “It will be a challenge, but I usually travel to Philly four times a week anyway.”
All in a day’s work for three generous, adventurous spirits.