Among the thousands of people who attend the Pope's weekly general audience, this group recently made it to St. Peter's Square all the way from Spain. For 75 years now, the organization known as ONCE which helps the blind.
"I greet all the Spanish speaking pilgrims, in particular all the groups coming from Spain, like the ONCE Foundation. I encourage you to continue with your commendable work.”
The organization helps people who are partially or completely blind. Everything from teaching them how to read braille and finding a job to training guide dogs for the blind. In fact back in October it received the prestigious Prince of Asturias Award for its work.
"Yes, we've had a very eventful year and among the highlights is this trip, where we came to see Pope Francis. It's all been very exciting. Especially because the 13th of December officially marks our 75th anniversary.”
A few members actually got go directly greet the Pope, who thanked them for their work. They say it's a great way to finish the year and to celebrate their 75th anniversary.
"He actually got out of his popemobile and greeted us all. We really appreciate it, especially making the effort of walking towards us. It was a way to thank the organization and the people we represent which adds to more than 3 million in Spain. In Europe there are more than 80 million people with a disability.”
After the general audience, the Pope took a moment to greet an employee of the organization, and as usual the Pope asked for prayers.
"I think it's very important that he actually asks for our prayers. It's funny that usually it's us who go to him and ask for his prayers. It's really a beautiful experience because he is supposed to have direct contact with God and to be asked to be his prayer intercessor, well we greatly appreciate it.”
At 75, members of ONCE say they're celebrating much more than an anniversary. Above all else, they're celebrating the excitement and encouragement to carry their mission forward.
MG - AA