Mural majority take part in painting to mark Pope Francis visit to Philly [photos]

As Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter and other delegates meet with Vatican officials in Rome, painting has started on a mural to commemorate this fall’s papal visit.

In the cafeteria of St. Joseph’s Pro-Cathedral school in Camden Tuesday morning, about 20 people worked on what looked like a super-sized paint-by-numbers project.

They were painting small panels of what will be a 4,239-square-foot mural spanning the facade of St. Malachy School in North Philadelphia.

The project is a collaboration between the Philadelphia’s Mural Arts program and the World Meeting of Families, the weeklong conference drawing Pope Francis and visitors from around the world.

Artist Cesar Viveros created the design, which features several scenes of children in different stages of growing up in their faith — a couple lifting their infant over a baptismal font, a young boy kneeling in prayer, a teenager with his arms around an elderly woman — bordered by flowers and grape vines and a mosaic design.

Viveros and his team dissected the mural, called “The Sacred Now: Faith and Family in the 21st Century,” into 153 panels, and they’re hosting “paint days” around the region to let the community chip in. 

“It’ll be really fun to go drive by it and actually see it,” said Pilar Hogan as she dipped a small paintbrush into a cup of paint.

Hogan is executive director of the St. Joseph’s Carpenters’ Society, a neighborhood revitalization group that works out of this parish in East Camden.

At a time when many churches are closing and the number of faithful has dwindled, she said Pope Francis has encouraged Catholics like her.

“It’s really important to step out and live the life that we are supposed to live according to how Jesus did,” she said. “I think that this pope is really living that with us, not from a gilded place in Rome, but actually coming out and meeting us and seeing us where we are.”

Project leaders expect the mural to be finished in November, about two months after Pope Francis has come and gone. It is one of several initiatives aimed at making the impact of the papal visit last, including a charity called the Francis Fund launched by homeless advocates to support local organizations working to alleviate hunger and poverty.

Want a digest of WHYY’s programs, events & stories? Sign up for our weekly newsletter.

It will take 126,000 members this year for great news and programs to thrive. Help us get to 100% of the goal.