Thirty-six years ago, Floyd McCubbins rarely went to church.
That changed one Sunday in the late 1970s when he talked to a priest who said he “saw great things” in the man’s future.
That interaction led McCubbins, now 65, to start attending mass again and become more involved in his local Catholic Church. In 2012, he was ordained as a deacon and just a few weeks ago he found out what those “great things” were when he had the unique honor of being part of Pope Francis’ recent historic trip the United States.
“It was an incredibly journey,” the Kalispell deacon said a few days after returning from Philadelphia. “It was everything I could imagine and more.”
McCubbins, who now serves at the Risen Christ Church in Kalispell, said when word first spread late last year that the newly ordained Bishop of Rome would be taking a trip to the United States, he began making arrangements for his own pilgrimage east.
Then something unexpected happened. On a whim, McCubbins had put his name into a drawing to be one of the deacons to serve communion with the Pope during his service in Philadelphia and much to his surprise he was selected. As huge of an honor as it was, McCubbins said he was almost overwhelmed at the thought of serving next to the leader of the Catholic Church.
McCubbins and his family arrived in Philadelphia a few days early to do some site-seeing before the Pope’s service at the Cathedral Basilica of Saints Peter and Paul on Sept. 26. On the day of the mass, McCubbins arrived early to get through an “unreal” amount of security. After joining the other deacons in the cathedral, McCubbins was informed that the local diocese would be providing the deacons for communion.
While some may have been disappointed in losing the chance to work next to the Pope, McCubbins joked that his “prayers had been answered.” Instead, McCubbins would join more than 200 other deacons to give communion outside the cathedral with bread the Pope had blessed earlier that day.
“We went into the streets to give communion,” he said, adding that he served people from all walks of life. “It was incredibly humbling and emotional… It’s hard to give communion when there are tears rushing down your face.”
Although he didn’t get to work alongside the Pope, McCubbins saw him right before the mass. He and the other deacons were inside the cathedral when they heard loud cheering outside. They rushed outside just in time to see the Pope round the corner in the “popemobile.”
McCubbins said seeing the Pope and being part of his service in Philadelphia was an unforgettable experience. He said he especially relates to the Pope’s message of inclusiveness and bringing the church to disadvantaged communities. Like the Pope who visited with inmates while in the United States, McCubbins often goes to jails to perform mass for prisoners.
“He came to the United States to tell us that the world is all about love and that we have to take care of our neighbors,” McCubbins said. “It doesn’t matter what people use to identify you, it’s all about love and we need to reach out to everyone in need.”
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