The Catholic University of America

April 28, 2015

News of Papal Visit Has Students Abuzz

  The upcoming papal visit is the lunchtime topic of the day for these excited freshmen.

When freshman Karley Gillespie received Monday’s announcement from CUA President John Garvey announcing a papal visit, she took a screen shot of the email and posted it to Facebook. And the likes started coming in.

Garvey’s email confirmed that on Sept. 23, the Holy Father will celebrate an outdoor Mass on the east portico of the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception overlooking the University Mall.

“I am beyond excited,” said Gillespie, a nursing major from Rahway, N.J.

During the Mass, Pope Francis will canonize American missionary Blessed Junipero Serra. The congregation attending the Mass will assemble in the area surrounding the steps of the Basilica, including the 3.6-acre University Mall, just as students, faculty, and families do for CUA’s annual Commencement exercises each May.

Nate Sarmir, a freshman civil engineering major from Allentown, Pa., said it’s “tough to describe” his excitement. “This doesn’t happen anywhere else. Like President Garvey said in his email, we are welcoming our third pope to campus. No other U.S. university has hosted a pope more than once.”

Since the announcement there has been an air of excitement on campus. And the Edward J. Pryzbyla University Center seems to be the epicenter of joyfulness. On Tuesday, Sarmir and Gillespie sat enjoying lunch with a group of friends, and their conversation focused on the papal visit.

“My mother texted me a few months ago when she heard the Pope was coming to D.C. and said, ‘I bet he comes to your school,’” said Cai Li Pleshe, a freshman business management major from Salt Lake City. “I couldn’t wait to tell her when we got the email. It’s kind of unbelievable to think the leader of the Catholic Church is coming here and will be on the same ground with us.”

Pleshe says she remembers hearing about Pope Bendict’s visit to CUA in 2008 and hoped she would experience a papal visit during her time at the University. “I love Pope Francis and everything he stands for,” says the freshman, who has a favorite T-shirt from the March for Life that bears a photo of the Pope with his quote, “The right to human life is the first among all human rights.”

Pleshe’s friend Bridget Feeney, a freshman elementary education major form Scranton, Pa., echoes her excitement as the group of friends enjoy lunch during the last week of classes before finals. “This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity,” she says.

Sitting next to Feeney, freshman Megan Seery, a nursing major from Worcester, Mass., says she is “awestruck. I still can’t imagine the possibility that I might find myself standing in front of the Pope. I just became a Catholic on Easter. The community here was part of that decision. So it will be so extra special to me to hear the Pope speak.”

David Antol, a freshman architecture major from Pittsburgh, has his friends laughing out loud as he shares that he and his fellow Frisbee team members start their games with the chant, “The Pope says win!” “We’re hoping we can get him to sign a Frisbee,” says Antol.

“It makes so much sense that he is visiting a college campus,” adds Antol. “This Pope is about engaging young people, who have so much to add to the vibrancy of the Church.”

“The Pope has an important message for our generation,” says Sarmir. “I remember when Pope Francis was picked as the new Pope and we learned about his humility and desire to help the poor and to not live extravagantly. I think college students can tend to be focused on material things, especially technology. We need to hear his message. He is inspiring young people,” says Sarmir.

Elsewhere on campus, Julia Emerson, a freshman nursing major from New Hampshire, was manning the front desk at the Office of Campus Ministry. She said she was alerted to the news of the Pope’s visit when her mother posted a link to her Facebook page.

“It’s crazy,” Emerson said. “I remember when I was applying to CUA, I spoke to an alum who was here when Pope Benedict XVI came and I was thinking, ‘How awesome. What if Pope Francis comes to visit?’”

Emerson said she feels proud to go to a school where someone as influential as Pope Francis can come by.

“Pope Francis is just this awesome figure,” she said. “I read a lot of his stuff in my theology class this year and it’s been really great to learn about his ideas so hopefully now I’ll be able to hear him speak.”

Sophomore nursing majors Taylor O’Neil and Holly McConnell were taking advantage of the sunny weather by studying at the picnic tables outside the Pryzbyla Center. Both said they found out about the Pope’s visit through social media.

“I found out earlier this week because it was all over Facebook and I’m super excited,” O’Neil said. “I think this makes us pretty special.”




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