Home sweet seminary • A U.S flag flies outside St. Charles Borromeo Seminary in Wynnewood, Pa., in 2013. Pope Francis will stay at the seminary during his visit to Philadelphia Sept. 26 and 27. CNS photo/Sarah Webb, CatholicPhilly.com
Home sweet seminary • A U.S flag flies outside St. Charles Borromeo Seminary in Wynnewood, Pa., in 2013. Pope Francis will stay at the seminary during his visit to Philadelphia Sept. 26 and 27. CNS photo/Sarah Webb, CatholicPhilly.com

By Patrick T. Brown | Correspondent

Just like any family welcoming a houseguest, the men in St. Charles Borromeo Seminary, Wynnewood, Pa., are watching their home get tidied up – walls repainted, furniture replaced, carpets cleaned, the campus grounds looking even more spotless than usual.

But in this case, the guest in question is the spiritual leader of the world’s 1.2 billion Catholics.

“There’s a lot of excitement, definitely a lot of anticipation because it’s really a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity,” said Deacon Richard Osborn, a transitional deacon of the Diocese of Trenton entering his final year in the seminary. “To have the whole World Meeting of Families happen here, much less having Pope Francis and having so much attention in the Catholic world on our seminary community – it’s very exciting.”

The Philadelphia seminary is home to Archbishop Charles Chaput, who will be hosting Pope Francis during his stay in the city for the close of the World Meeting of Families.

“It’s very exciting,” said Diocese of Trenton seminarian Hector Ramirez. “We’re all looking forward to it and hoping that we can actually greet him and say hello.”

Ramirez, a Theology II student at the seminary, is among a handful of seminarians from the Diocese who have been getting an up-close and personal look at what it takes to host a visiting Pope.

“We’ve been told that any time that he is on campus, more or less, anything that’s public…we will be there,” Ramirez said. “We will be as close as we possibly can to him. I know our security told us to be prepared, he might decide to randomly join us or something throughout the day, so we’re hopeful something like that happens.”

Pope Francis will arrive at the seminary on Sept. 26, greeted by seminarians standing and singing on the front steps of the main building.

“There’s going to be some time with him later that evening, a little more informally,” Deacon Osborn said. “He made the point to the seminary that he wanted to spend some time with us, which should be a neat experience…getting to spend time with the successor of Peter.”

On Sept. 27, the seminary’s St. Martin Chapel will host a meeting among Pope Francis and bishops from across the country before he leaves to visit inmates at the Curran-Fromhold Correctional Facility.

This isn’t the first time the seminary has hosted a Papal visitor, though it will be the first time it’s been an overnight stay. During his 1979 visit to Philadelphia, Pope John Paul II visited the seminary, arriving to a rock star’s welcome.

“As a young seminarian, I was inspired by the 1979 visit of Pope St. John Paul II to St. Charles and I am delighted that our seminarians will share in this same joy this September,” said the rector of the Seminary, the Bishop Timothy Senior, in a letter to the school’s supporters. “It is particularly thrilling for Pope Francis to be at the seminary at this time as we experience a recent growth in vocations.”

Deacon Osborn, who grew up going to St. Jerome Parish, West Long Branch, said the visit has the potential to leave a legacy not just for the seminary, but for the entire region.

“When St. John Paul II visited Denver in the 1990s, it was a very transformational moment for that city in terms of their own Catholic identity and feel for the faith,” he said. “I’m hoping that Francis’ visit will be kind of a booster shot in the arm for the life of the Church in the mid-Atlantic region.”

The preparation for the visit has been taking place for more than a year, with police and the United States Secret Service making increasingly frequent trips to the campus to prepare for the Holy Father’s arrival.

Ramirez said the security concerns of hosting a global spiritual leader and head of state won’t deter the festive atmosphere.

“We’ve been told we’ll be more or less free to roam around the seminary rather easily except that we’ll just have to show our I.D. everywhere we go, but I don’t think it will be a hardship,” he said. “We won’t be allowed off-campus while he’s there, but I honestly doubt any of us [would] want to be.”