By Melissa Rohman
On the night of September 24, ten Dominican students and two faculty members set out on a pilgrimage to see Pope Francis in Philadelphia. Pope Francis made his first venture to the United States on September 22, spending five days in the country with stops in Washington D.C., New York City, and Philadelphia. For four days, the students accompanied by Ministry en lo Cotidiano coordinator Javier Reyes and Director of the University Ministry John DeCostanza would celebrate, tour, and partake in the mass led by Pope Francis.
Pope Francis is the first Latin American Pope. Born in Buenos Aires, Argentina, he is the first Non-European Pope in nearly 1,300 years. Pope Francis has been recognized around the world as very approachable, humble, and always striving to reach out to people of all faiths, so it’s no wonder that millions of people ventured to see him.
The ten Dominican students who went on the pilgrimage found out about the application from University Ministry.
“Some of my family members were able to see Pope John Paul II when he visited Mexico and they would always mention how amazing that day was,” said senior Maggie Angel. “When I heard about this opportunity I wanted to experience that joy as well.”
Every student that applied and was accepted to go was responsible for fundraising as well as writing letters and sending them to loved ones. University Ministry generously covered any remaining funds.
The pilgrimage lasted roughly four days, starting with a 16-hour bus ride from Chicago to Philadelphia with another Catholic group from the Chicagoland area. When the group finally arrived in Philadelphia, their agenda consisted of early mornings, tours, and a lot of walking.
“No one minded waking up early, waiting through security, and standing in one spot for an entire day,” said Angel. “We waited for hours for a moment that lasted seconds, but it was worth every minute of the wait.”
On Friday, the group walked eight miles from La Salle University to the Sunday Mass and Eucharistic Adoration with the Pope that was held outside the Philadelphia Art Museum. On Saturday, they went to hear Pope Francis speak which was followed by the Papal concert.
Sunday consisted of a mural art tour around Philadelphia and mass led by the Pope.
“Getting to see Pope Francis and then celebrating mass with him and hundred of people from around the world was an experience that is far too difficult to comprehend and describe,” said sophomore Tommy Bailey. “I’ve heard so many incredible stories of people witnessing Pope Francis over the past two and a half years of his papacy and I am so lucky and ecstatic to have my own.”
So why did these students voluntarily decide to go see the Pope? Their answers range from an interest in studying religion and faith to passions for advocacy and leadership.
“He is an incredible advocate for the poor, disabled, and less fortunate,” said senior Emily Walasik.
Freshman Shannon Wilcox said, “Pope Francis is an idol of mine. He really portrays the perfect example of how Catholics should live today.”
“This pilgrimage really made me reflect on my faith and how to integrate it as an adult,” said Angel. “Growing up in a devout Catholic Hispanic household, I realized how close my faith tied to my family life and ultimately my identity. I felt incredibly blessed to have experienced this pilgrimage especially with such a great Dominican community that I will forever cherish.”
This pilgrimage was an experience that the group of students and staff will never forget.