PHILADELPHIA, PA (WBTV) - It was a pilgrimage for a group of high school students that began Friday in the darkness of a long bus ride.
"I want grow in my faith," said Jasmine Perez.
The goals were simple, the expectations hopeful.
"I definitely feel like I'll be closer to Christ by the end of this trip," said Jack Isles.
Several dozen from the Charlotte area, joined a million plus others in Philadelphia to renew their faith and be close to the man igniting a new feeling in the Catholic Church.
"(It's) such a neat experience, just to have so many people from all over the world to see Pope Francis," said Abby Bunta.
"He's accepting of everyone and that's what makes him so beautiful," said Charlotte Catholic High School Teacher Jean Adamian. "(It's) love and acceptance and mercy."
It's a message delivered in soft tones, with humility, a style that redefines pop-culture's version of charisma.
"It's not about him it's not about the trappings of the office," said St. Thomas Aquinas Deacon Joe Diaz. "It's about being the servant of the servants of Christ."
"He'll say many times to become closed in, to become self-reverential, is for the church a sickness," said Dr. David Williams.
Williams is a long-time teacher of theology at Belmont Abbey College.
"The difficulty for him is not to draw attention, but to convert it to lasting stability," said Williams.
Pope Francis is attempting to do it with simplicity, with the basics of the Catholic Church, an emphasis on outreach and service to others.
"I think we'll see something of a Francis generation coming out of this," said Williams. "But like a seed planted in the ground we're not going to see it as his plane goes wheels up on Sunday, it's going to take a little longer."
Time will be the judge of the long-term impact of the past week, but there is no debate over the here and now, for those who came to Philadelphia, the simple goals were met.
"I feel so close to everything, my Catholic (faith) my religion ," said Charlotte Catholic High School Student Grant Jackson with tears rolling down his cheeks.
"I'm exhausted," said Charlotte Catholic High School Student Amy Dickerson, "But it was way beyond worth it,"