Philadelphia — For the past year, the question most often heard by Donna Crilley Farrell, executive director of the World Meeting of Families, was, "How can I help?"
Now there is an answer and a way anyone can lend a hand to the four-day conference and events surrounding the visit of Pope Francis to Philadelphia in September.
Registration for volunteers is now open at the World Meeting of Families 2015 website.
The meeting runs Sept. 22-25 at the Pennsylvania Convention Center in Philadelphia.
The papal events following the congress are expected to include a visit from Pope Francis to the Festival of Families Sept. 26 and the large outdoor Mass on the Benjamin Franklin Parkway that he is expected to celebrate for up to 1.5 million people Sept. 27.
Some 10,000 volunteers will be needed at the congress and to welcome Pope Francis to the city, Farrell said. Tasks include giving directions to visitors, welcoming them to Philadelphia International Airport or 30th Street Station and even acting as "digital diplomats," volunteers posting all manner of information on social media platforms.
"Whatever your talent, whatever your passion, there is a role for you," Farrell said during a news conference Monday announcing the call for volunteers.
She encouraged people to bring "all the pride and hospitality that we know exist here" to support September's events that will be remembered for years to come, "just as we talk of the visit of Pope John Paul II -- now saint -- 36 years ago in Philadelphia."
Security is a major concern for event organizers, so volunteers will be screened through a criminal background check. After visitors register their personal information initially on the website , they will receive a confirmation email. Farrell emphasized the importance of waiting for a second email message, after 24 to 48 hours, for confirmation that they have been accepted for volunteer duty.
Volunteers will also be invited to indicate specific preferences for service or talents that would be better served in one role over another. For instance, a person with the skills to translate a foreign language or a person with artistic abilities may be assigned to serve in those roles.
All of the volunteers for the effort will be recognizable in unique and colorful uniforms to be supplied by Aramark Corp.
The Philadelphia-based food services giant was one of a contingent of companies that will provide volunteer support. Others included Independence Blue Cross and Campbell Soup.