The Bowes family of St. Christopher Parish in Northeast Philadelphia received the biggest surprise of their lives — they are going to welcome Pope Francis to Philadelphia when his plane lands here Sept. 26 to begin a historic two-day visit in the city to cap the World Meeting of Families. The Bowes family learned the news by surprise after the 10:30 a.m. Mass at their church Sunday, Sept. 13. Learn about the family in our story here. (Photos by Sarah Webb)

Bernadette Bowes (center) was shocked when it was annoucned at the end of mass on Sunday at St Christopher Church that her family will greet the Pope unpon his arrival. (Richard, Matthew, Riley, Bernadette, Gabrielle)

Bernadette Bowes (center) was shocked when it was announced at the end of Mass on Sunday at St. Christopher Church that her family will greet the Pope upon his arrival in Philadelphia. Her children, from left, include Matthew, Riley and Gabrielle.

Riley, Bernadette, RIley, Matthew, Richard Bowes pray during mass

While praying during Mass on Sunday, Richard Bowes (right) was the only one of his family who knew they were about to be surprised with the news they would be greeting Pope Francis in Philadelphia.


Donna Crilley Farrell, executive director of the World Meeting of Families, makes the big announcement at St. Christopher’s after the 10:30 a.m. Mass Sunday, Sept. 13.

Gabrielle Bowes was brought to tears when Donna Crilley Farrell announced her family would be greeting the Pope when he arrives.

Gabrielle Bowes is excited to speak with Donna Crilley Farrell after she announced the Bowes family will represent the city’s families in greeting the pope.

)Richard, Matthew, Bernadette, and Gabrielle) Donna Crilley Farrell shakes the hand of RileyBowes

Richard, Matthew, Bernadette and Gabrielle Bowes, who is overwhelmed with emotion, meet with Donna Crilley Farrell of the World Meeting of Families, who shakes hands with Riley Bowes.

Msgr. Joseph Garvin embraces the Bowes family.

Msgr. Joseph Garvin, pastor of St. Christopher’s, embraces the Bowes family.

Richard and Bernadette

Richard and Bernadette

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Donna Criley Farrell pins Riley Bowes with an I'll Be There pin

Donna Criley Farrell pins an “I’ll Be There” badge — part of the city-wide promotional campaign welcoming Pope Francis to Philadelphia — on Riley Bowes.

Richard, Matthew, Bernadette, Gabrielle, Riley

The happiest family in St. Christopher Parish, and maybe anywhere.

Clockwise- Richard, Bernadette, Gabrielle, Matthew, Riley

The Bowes family includes (clockwise) Richard, Bernadette, Gabrielle, Matthew and Riley.