'Find creative ways to keep our parishes open'

Our Lady Queen of Angels School in the New York's Harlem community is seen Sept. 1. (CNS / Gregory A. Shemitz)

Though I don't particularly like celebrity hoopla, I am following Pope Francis’ visit to the United States with heightened interest. 

I'm glad our pope is spending so much time with poor folk during his time here. 

In Washington, he will visit with homeless families and check out St. Maria's meals, a volunteer food truck operation that hands out hot meals to mostly Spanish-speaking day laborers.

In Philadelphia, prisoners recently hand carved a 6-foot chair from walnut for the pope to sit on when he visits the Curran-Fromhold Correctional Facility.  Up to 100 inmates, family members and prison staff from that facility and other Philadelphia prisons, will meet with the pope.  

Julie Byrne of Hofstra University said Francis is "leading by example" noting the timeliness of his prison visit when public concern about over-crowding and strict sentencing  rules for non-violent offenders is gaining currency  in political circles.

But my heart is especially with students and former parishioners at Our Lady Queen of Angels school and parish (now closed) in the mostly Latino and black neighborhood of East Harlem.  Most of the school's nearly 300 students are immigrants whose meager family incomes qualify them for financial aid. Pope Francis will meet with selected pupils as well as immigrants and refugees, including unaccompanied minors who have come to the United States.

Read and comment on the full story at National Catholic Reporter.