The Catholic University of America

April 17, 2008

3,000 CUA Students Rock the Pope

Pope Benedict XVI greeting students on the Edward J. Pryzbyla University Center steps with Very Rev. David M. O'Connell, C.M., left, Bishop William Lori and Archbishop Donald Wuerl.
"Are you ready to rock the pope?" a Catholic University student asked about 3,000 of his fellow students assembled on the lawn of CUA's Columbus School of Law April 17.

The answer was an emphatic yes.

Beginning at 10 a.m., the students began gathering on the grass to watch a live broadcast of the pope's Washington, D.C., Mass at Nationals Park on a 23-foot-wide JumboTron, mingle with friends and eagerly await the arrival of Pope Benedict XVI.

The students, many wearing sports jerseys emblazoned with the name Benedict and the number 16, took part in a seven-hour papal pep rally as they waited for the pontiff's arrival at 5 p.m.

In addition to the screening of the papal Mass at Nationals Park, the day also included several organized and impromptu activities accompanied by both prayer and rock music.

CUA students enjoy the sun and papal festivities.
Two CUA student a cappella groups, RedLine and Take Note, performed. Student videos on Pope John Paul II and Pope Benedict XVI and the feature film "Sister Act" were screened. The university's chaplain, Rev. Robert Schlageter, O.F.M. Conv., led students in cheers of "CUA Loves the Pope," and also directed them in spelling out letters of the cheer with their arms and legs.

Meanwhile, students - including one who brought her own mitre (a peaked papal hat) - soaked up the sun on the lawn, played Frisbee and displayed signs saying "Viva Il Papa" and "We Love Our German Shepherd" made at earlier poster-making sessions.

"I am a new Christian and he helps me to build my faith," said Abdul Kamara, a senior nursing student from Sierra Leone, holding a small papal flag. "It means a lot and makes me very happy to see him."

At just before 5 p.m. the rumble of motorcycles could be heard and students crowded to barriers along the edge of the lawn, eager to see the pope. A cheer went up as the motorcade arrived. The cheers grew louder as the Holy Father emerged from a limousine and students waved Vatican flags beneath trees that had budded yellow just the day before.

The Holy Father departs campus in the popemobile.
Students chanted "Benedict! Benedict!" as the pontiff walked up the stairs to the Edward J. Pryzbyla University Center. At the top of the steps, Benedict, wearing white robes, turned and faced the students. Students cheered and continued to shout his name.

The pontiff then entered the building to deliver a talk on Catholic education to more than 400 presidents of Catholic colleges and universities and diocesan heads of education from across the country.

"He's such a loving, humble pope," said sophomore Nicole Ildefonso of Severna Park, Md. "It's amazing to be here."

Lauren Bilich, a sophomore from Sayville, N.Y., majoring in social work and theology, said that she was amazed at her reaction when she saw the pope. "The pope is Peter, the head of the Church, and I was seeing him from the lawn where I sometimes sit in the grass to study," she said, adding that tears came to her eyes.

"That the head of the Church chose to visit us reaffirms why I chose to study at Catholic University. A lot of students choose to study here in order to grow in our faith."