It was sometime in the fall of 1962, when I was studying in Rome. Bishop Quentin Olwell, a Passionist originally from Broolyn, was made bishop of Cotabato in the Philippines and was visiting Pope John XXIII on his first “ad limina” visit.
Fr. Theodore Foley, then assistant to the Passionist superior general, came to my room and said. “Get a briefcase and let’s go over to the Vatican. We’ll be Bishop Olwell’s secretaries for the day. Sometime they let you in to see the pope.”
And that’s what happened. At the end of the bishop’s visit, they invited us into the pope’s library. He received the bishop’s “secretaries” quite genially, we shook his hands and got our picture taken with him.
I remember he asked me where I was from. I told him the United States. Then he said to me “Be like St. Gabriel,” a young Italian Passionist student who died at 24, close to my age then.
Pope John was named Time Magazine’s “Man of the Year” that year, I think, but my mother, who always carried this picture in her purse and would show it to anyone she could, would say; “This is my Joe, with the pope.”