Papal Pilgrimage for North Dakotans

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Just hours ago, Pope Francis landed in the United States for the first time. His stops include Washington, D.C., New York City, and Philadelphia. That's also where you will find Catholics who traveled from all over the world, including some from North Dakota.

It's a trip of firsts.

"This is Pope Francis' first time in the United States" said Tara Brooke, Diocese of Bismarck director of family ministry.

Rev. Joseph Evinger said, "He's going to be speaking to congress for the first time in the history of the United States."

And, for Catholics in the Diocese of Bismarck: "This to me is going to be a once in a lifetime chance, and sure I'd love to go to Rome, but I have to be realistic about it," said Janet Stoner of Williston, N.D.

Stoner is one of 35 Catholics from the Diocese of Bismarck travelling to Philadelphia for one main reason: "I get to see the pope."

Their papal pilgrimage started long before the crack of dawn -- 3:00 a.m. to be exact. But to these folks the early wake up call didn't damper any spirits. Stoner said to her: "He is the next thing to God. I mean, how much closer can we get to God than through him on this Earth?"

For Rev. Joseph Evinger, this crusade has always been a dream. "Since I was a little boy I grew up Catholic and I always loved the pope. He's the image of the church."

This pope has been making waves in the media for controversial statements, which has grabbed the attention of Americans like never before.

Tara Brooke is the Diocese of Bismarck Director of Family Ministry​ says she thinks: "Pope Francis has a huge following especially in the US I think all over but we need his pressure, need his faith, need his encompassing love that's going to surround us. Hopefully it's going to renew all families in the Catholic faith to continue to strive to live our faith in our world today."

Over a million American Catholics are hoping to catch a glimpse of the love this 'people's pope' can bring.

Another first -- this is the first time that the world meeting of families will be held in the united states. That's the conference that the Pope will be leading over the next few days. It was started back in 1993 and happens every three years.