Catholic & Single & In Philly This Papal Visit? Options Are Endless!

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Catholic & Single & In Philly This Papal Visit?

Singles Take On Dating Discernment, Respond to a “Hook-Up Culture,” at WMOF Week Leading Into Papal Visit

Singles to stroll Philly together, eat South Philadelphia pasta and speed date to meet others – in person – looking to date in the faith during World Meeting of Families and Papal Visit Week

By Anna Maria Basquez

Owner, Denver Catholic Speed Dating LLC

Should singles attend the World Meeting of Families Congress?


A full slate of activities and sessions are planned for Catholic singles visiting the Philadelphia area during the week of World Meeting of Families Congress Sept. 22-25 and leading into the weekend.

Things to Do:, the original online site for Catholics, is asking singles to stop by their booth at World Meeting of Families or join them for social outings during the week leading up to Pope Francis’ visit. Follow them on Facebook/CatholicSingles and for daily giveaways and announcements. is sponsoring after hours events that week, including a night out meet and greet and a free historical walking tour of the city.

Details on those:

  • (which is among the booths represented at World Meeting of Families) is running a walking tour from 6-8 p.m. on Thursday, Sept. 24 meeting inside the Independence visitor center at 6th & Market. Look for the organizer with the CatholicSingles shirt on. is also co-sponsoring Denver Catholic Speed Dating, to run: Philadelphia Catholic Speed Dating, All Ages, from 7-9:30 p.m. Friday, Sept. 25, 2015, at Estia (Greek/Mediterranean) Restaurant in Center City, 1405 Locust St. in Philadelphia. The location is under one mile south of the convention center and within the Papal perimeter. is contributing a few free memberships to the event as door prizes. RSVP needed to seat age groups together by writing or texting with name, age, email address and cell number to or 720-309-5321. Directions from convention center: Turn right when you step out of the Convention Center on Arch Street. Find 12th Street and hang a left and walk south on 12th for four blocks. Turn Right on Sansom Street for four blocks. Turn Left on 15th for two blocks and turn Left on Locust and it should be on your Left. 

Cost: $30 if payment is made online (see pay online tab at or $40 at the door cash/check. Includes foods/sodas/teas. Age groups seated accordingly. Info at Philadelphia Catholic Speed Dating tab at memberships will be among door prizes. RSVP: or 720-309-5321.

The hosting organizer is a small business/apostolate that began in Denver and has married off numerous couples in the faith. Ever been in a large Catholic setting or a parish gathering and didn’t know who was married, engaged, taken, discerning or available and seeking to date within the faith? This takes the guesswork out of it. The host organizer has hosted nearly 4,000 people state- and nationwide with numerous marriages resulting, in its service of introducing more people to meet face-to-face and date in the faith. Stories about it have been featured on, Catholic News Agency, and Denver Catholic Register.

The Cathedral Basilica of Saints Peter & Paul is hosting numerous drop-in tours, talks both free and with cost and relic viewings throughout the week with a full slate of activities at One of interest, on Sacred Architecture and Art, is at 6:30 p.m. Wednesday Sept. 23rd. The talk is led by University of Notre Dame Professor Duncan Stroik. The event is $25 talk or is also included in the $75 price which includes the posh reception after at Top of the Tower about a block away ($35 & $85 for general public). Sign up and make payment at:

Right before jogging to that, which is just more than half a mile away from the Pennsylvania Convention Center, another savvy Catholic single there informs there is a Pro-Life Symposium at 6 p.m. in the Pennsylvania Convention Center ballroom.

Topics to Hear:

The World Meeting of Families Congress week features many speakers catering to issues among Catholic singles.

The week of World Meeting of Families breakout sessions include “Where is This Relationship Going? Dating as Discernment” at 11:45 a.m. Sept. 23rd with Catholic Dating experts Brian Barcaro, of, Danielle Bean, publisher of Catholic Digest and Robyn Lee, editor of the blog.

“No Strings Attached? Responding to the ‘Hook-up’ Culture” will also be presented by author Erika Bachiochi at 11:45 a.m. Sept. 24th.

Other topics throughout the week will include: “Called Together: Interfaith Marriage,” by Naomi Schaefer Riley, “I Am With You: Struggling with Divorce,” by Rose Sweet, and “The Power of Family during Times of Separation,” by Fr. John Paul Echert, Fr. Antonio Lopez, F.S.C.B.; and Dr. Joseph White. ” Loving on the Edge: Healing the Hurts of Damaged Relationships,” by Sue Muldoon, ” Communication for Couples” by Sonia María Crespo and ” A House Undivided: Christ as Unifier of a Blended Family,” by Michéle Boulva, are also on the agenda. They are among at least 75 breakout sessions to choose from so see the list at the link.

The main planning guide for talks that week:

Registration for an individual for one day only of the World Meeting of Families Congress is $95 and based on availability. I received this message Friday, Sept. 11 from WMOF when I inquired further on the one-day only registration: Due to the popularity of the World Meeting of Families Congress and achieving record breaking attendance, registration for the Full, Modified and Basic Packages is now CLOSED. The One Day Only registration option will be available online beginning Monday, Sept. 14, 2015 with 2,500 registrations available. Another 2,500 one day only registrations will be made available onsite at Congress registration. 

Registration can be found on the main site. Go to “Individual Registration” and then on that page, fill out the section that says “Registration Code.” See:

How Would I Travel There At This Stage?

In much legwork done for friends interested to attend, there are many helpful tips are out there.

For instance, flight prices just dipped to a $29 promotional rate Thursday, Sept. 10 from many cities nationwide on Frontier Airlines. These deals seem to come out every other day, but to receive them delivered to your inbox you must sign up on their site directly to receive the deals. A pilgrim in my group bought his flight Sept. 11 on Delta Airlines. And Southwest Airlines just came out with a $74 each way deal on Sept. 15.

If those don’t work out, is a good option right now as for a Sept. 24-28 bid, the safest dates to bid and keep costs down while seeing all the Papal events, you’re likely to get your bid of $200-$300. Other pilgrims to Philadelphia are telling me was a good route that they took.

Remember that with Frontier, your first checked bags is $25 extra and that laptops are, in my experience, fine to be considered as free carry-on bags. The checked bag measurement requirements are very reasonable. While making the reservation, don’t purchase a seat if you don’t have to. If you skip past the “pick a seat” page, it will automatically choose them for you. This is the case with most airlines. Do definitely purchase your checked bag while you check in online before going to the airport, if you haven’t already done so during your purchase, to save money. Be at check-in two hours early with Frontier. Always take your original printed copy of your purchase receipt as well as the boarding passes with you.

Those are just some of the options we’re seeing.

If you’re looking for a good link to find a list of hotels and prices the World Meeting of Families Congress compiled one at: Call them direct to find out availability as I’m finding many sites are behind with the times.

In my experience, I also recommend trying first or seeing the options Aim for as close to Center City as possible. Also, I keep hearing through the grapevine about rooms in Center City. You may write and I’ll point you in the direction of whom I’m hearing from.

If you are staying in New Jersey, buy the PATCO $5 unlimited day bus passes beforehand for transportation Sept. 26-27 (The link for that is: or SEPTA train passes for $10 (yes there are many left), which you’ll need to purchase online or have a local friend purchase them for you before. Double-check on the buses though by calling PATCO direct and also the place or hotel you are staying about transportation. If  you are in New Jersey be sure to check with people where you are staying if the bridges on your way to the event are open. I was told by one hotel concierge in Cherry Hill, NJ near Pennsauken that all four bridges will be shut down to Philly to buses Sept. 25, 26 & 27, making it only feasible to cross over them by walking four miles or specifically trying to call a flat-rate cab, which in most cases are $30 one-way. Other cabs can be $50 or so one way. If you found something in Center City, however, just rely on walking and the various affordable SEPTA or bus fares. You’ll be close to everything there.

What Are Some of the Great Church Sites?

A friend who was on the singles scene and tied the knot in Philadelphia this past summer offers the following good advice:

St. John Neumann is located at 5th and Girard. St. John is interred in a glass box in the lower church. The upper church is gorgeous. The area is a little sketchy, but you’d be OK during the day.

St. Rita of Cascia is in South Philly on Broad Street. You’d take the broad street (train) line down to Ellsworth-Federal station and the shrine is located on the corner (i think of Ellsworth).

The Shrine of the Miraculous Medal is located in Germantown on Cheltan Ave. Germantown is a bit shady, but you’d be OK at the shrine.

The St. Katharine Drexel Shrine is up in Bensalem, right outside Philadelphia County along rt 13. I recommend visiting.

The only shrine I haven’t been to in the immediate area is St Rita’s, only because it was closed on 4th of July.

There is a shrine to St. Padre Pio up in Bardstown, Penn. I have never been there.

On 13th Street, just south of Market is St John the Evangelist Catholic Church which once served as the proto-cathedral of Philly. There are plaques outside the church in honor of the firemen that died defending the church from fire (anti-Catholic riots back in the day).

Down market, in the Independence Hall area are several old Catholic churches or sites. St. Augustine near the Ben Franklin bridge, St Mary’s, Holy Trinity, etcetera. There is also the arch street Quaker meeting house which is significant. Thanks to William Penn, Catholics were able to take root in Pennsylvania (persecution notwithstanding). When people wanted to deny Catholics freedom of religion, William Penn basically said no, that the freedom was for everybody.

The oratory of St Francis Xavier is up near the art museum (24th and Green streets, I believe) which is a gorgeous church.

The Ukrainian Catholic Cathedral is located in Northern liberties neighborhood which is close to Temple University. A day trip should be safe to make.

The Italian Market is along 9th street near Christian Street. I have never been there, but hear good things. St. Paul’s Catholic Church is on Christian near 10th and is very nice (that I’ve been to). The other parish church is St. Mary Magdalene Di Pazzi which was the first Italian national church in Philadelphia, if not in USA altogether (call this site to ask for a tour). These areas should be safe.

For a cheesesteak, I’d recommend Delassandro’s up on Henry Ave. and Walnut in Roxborough neighborhood. This is a safe area.

Pats and Genos are the famous steak places and they are down on Passyunk in South Philly. Also, 10th ave steaks (I think that is the place’s name) at 10th and Oregon made a really good pork sandwich (especially with sharp provolone).

You will also have to visit Reading Terminal (while downtown).

As far as safety goes, your risk does go up in certain areas of the city just like any city. I have only taken the broad street line (subway) from as far north as vine and to the southern end (pattison aka at&t station) so I don’t know what it’s like on the northern side.

I’ve taken the El (market Frankford elevated line) plenty of times and have never had an issue, even late at night. The train goes from 69th st in Upper Darby in the west to Frankford Transportation Center up in Frankford. The train goes through some rumored bad northeast neighborhoods (like Kensington) but I’ve never had an issue. I feel fairly safe riding that train and even the one that I’d take back to the Norristown area.

North Philly, in general, is dangerous. West Philly is dangerous once you get past 50th or 52nd (or so i have heard). I do know that there are police cameras at 52nd and Market…However, the part of West Philly closer to Center City has University of Pennsylvania, Drexel University, Children’s Hospital, the zoo, etcetera. Northwest Philly neighborhoods are generally safe and nice (except Nicetown and Germantown). Manayunk’s main street is popular.

The neighborhoods adjacent to north Philly are generally considered sketchy to dangerous (my impression). That includes Strawberry Mansion, Brewerytown, Tioga, etc. along the Schuylkill River. The river wards of the lower northeast, I am not sure about. My impression is that they are typical neighborhoods (port Richmond, Fishtown, etc.).

The greater northeast is fairly safe. That is northeast of Tacony area, even though I wouldn’t be too concerned in Frankford which is nearby.”

What Can I Do To Be In The Spirit of Bergoglio (Pope Francis), To Serve the Poor During WMOF Week?

Baltimore-based Catholic Relief Services is providing a great opportunity to work in the spirit of the poor during World Meeting of Families at the Pennsylvania Convention Center. The group issued this statement: “Attendees at the World Meeting of Families – Philadelphia 2015, are invited to join Helping Hands – a fun, multi-generational, meal-packing event that fights hunger and energizes people about the mission of ending global hunger. Created by Catholic Relief Services (CRS) and Stop Hunger Now, Helping Hands has set a goal of 200,000 meals to be packed over three days of the World Meeting of Families – Philadelphia 2015 Congress. Participants are invited to sign-up for one or more hour-long meal-packing shifts.”
Helping Hands is inviting all families, groups of friends, alumni, religious orders and diocesan groups to register. And they literally need hundreds more to help them at the convention center at this! 
People may sign up for the shifts here:
Planning to venture into the poor areas of Philadelphia specifically to feed the poor?
A local friend tells me Kensington should be avoided unless you are going there to serve the poor. But if you’re up to the task and in a group of the same, he says it is a very poor neighborhood where people are suffering.
Some of the ministries to get in touch with specifically for this mission include St. Francis Inn, a Franciscan, Eucharistic community called to minister with the poor and homeless of Philadelphia, which you can get information from at For information on current volunteer needs there contact Sister Leslie, volunteer coordinator, at (215) 423-5845 or email Another ministry to get in touch with for this reason is the Blessed Sarnelli Community, which has opportunities each day to volunteer with. You may see the day of week events at and contact Edward at for more information.
A friend also tells me Denver-headquartered Christ in the City will be doing walks for the homeless in Philadelphia. For info write
Where Can I Go For Adoration During World Meeting of Families Week?
There is adoration from Sunday, Sept. 20 to Thursday, Sept. 24 at Chapel of our Lady of the Most Blessed Sacrament, at the Cathedral Basilica of Saints Peter and Paul, 1723 Race St. Philadelphia, which is about .6 mile from the convention center.
My read on adoration tells me that WMOF has all sign-up hours covered and welcomes all pilgrims to be visiting adorers. If you want to double-check on their need for committed adorers, email
A “Foodie’s Paradise”

In my planning for World Meeting of Families & the Papal Visit & running Philadelphia Catholic Speed Dating, the one thing I keep hearing about is… Philadelphia’s Food!

In 2006 I tried the landmark Geno’s Steaks, a cheesesteak place “under the bridge there,” and it was FANTASTIC! As well as very reasonably priced. I highly recommend getting the Philly cheesesteak wherever and whenever you can as well as pizza there.

Other good options that have come to me recommended, when going simple and hungry: buy a soft pretzel off a cart vendor with mustard, flavored ice, or find the pineapple vendor (you’ll know when you see her). When going mid-range, the Reading Terminal downtown Philly gets all the raves. Go out of your way for Geno’s (which is reasonably priced) or head a mile south of Center City to hit the landmark Ralph’s for Italian. Also, the restaurant that welcomed Philadelphia Catholic Speed Dating with open arms, Little Italy Pizza at 901 South Street one mile from the convention center, will be something to try. Reviews say the marinara is so good people eat it with a spoon!

From one of the locals, I got this message: “I am not as familiar with bus routes to Fishtown, but my friend gets there with ease by public transportation on a regular basis (where there are great restaurants and the great Indy coffeehouse La Colombe.) He also told me to tell you that Philly and NYC are the two top places for independent coffee houses east of the Mississippi, and both cities have the finest coffee. I might also add that Philly is a foodie’s paradise. Check out some of the better restaurants, while you’re here. We really have great food and are probably one of the most exciting food destinations in North America at this time. Go us!! While in New Jersey, you might also want to eat in Collingswood. Not far from Pennsauken, and a nice Main Street feel.”

For more of a guide online, Philadelphia magazine did a good job of fleshing this subject out at this link:

I’ve Never Been To Philly, What is it like?

If you haven’t pictured Philadelphia, can’t picture it and you’ve never been there, you’ve likely seen the charm of it in the late 1990s M. Night Shyamalan film: “The Sixth Sense” with Bruce Willis, Haley Joel Osment and Donnie Wahlberg (brother of Mark Wahlberg who will be host for World Meeting of Families). It was a psychological thriller filmed in South Philly (in locations almost 2 miles SW of Center City, downtown Philly). Or you’ve seen it in “Rocky” of course (“ADRIAN!!”) Or you know it as the location Edgar Allan Poe wrote “The Black Cat.” The landmark Poe house in Philly will be closed Sept. 25-27 but will be open the week leading up to the weekend and reopen again on Sept. 28. Some of the often visited places by tourists: places “The Sixth Sense” was filmed (which for Catholic purposes include the St. Augustine Church renowned as being either thee only or one of the only churches in the nation where the choir loft is “in the round” above the congregation), Edgar Allan Poe’s Home, and the Benjamin Franklin Parkway where the Pope will be, which I have also heard was among filming locations for “Rocky.”

It will be a historic week for Pope Francis, the City of Philadelphia and the numerous Catholics voyaging to see Pope Francis’ first visit to America and to World Meeting of Families. See you there!

Anna Maria Basquez is a reporter and owner of Denver Catholic Speed Dating. Her work has appeared with the Colorado Catholic Herald (Roman Catholic Diocese of Colorado Springs), Catholic News Service, Denver Catholic Register (Archdiocese of Denver), National Catholic Register, National Catholic Reporter, Our Sunday Visitor, EWTN, Catholic News Agency, Zenit.Org, the Boston Pilot and the Canadian Catholic Register, among many. She was a full-scholarship winner with the Rocky Mountain News, which she also worked full-time for during college.

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