The Catholic University of America

Feb. 15, 2013

Memories of Pope Benedict XVI’s Visit

On April 17, 2008, Pope Benedict XVI visited the campus of The Catholic University of America to address presidents of Catholic colleges and universities and diocesan heads of education in the Edward J. Pryzbyla University Center. That day, approximately 3,000 students assembled on the lawn of the Columbus School of Law to get a glimpse of the pope.

With the announcement that Pope Benedict XVI will step down at the end of the month, members of the CUA community reflected on their memories from that sunny day in April when they got a chance to see the pope as he pulled up in front of the Pryzbyla Center in the popemobile. They then watched his address on a Jumbotron.

Below are memories from current CUA staff members who were students at the University in 2008.

  Amanda Good on the Law School lawn during Pope Benedict XVI's visit.

Amanda Good, associate director of undergraduate admissions, Class of 2008
“When I think back to the day that Pope Benedict visited The Catholic University of America, I remember that the sun was shining and it was one of those perfect spring days. There were students everywhere, lying on blankets, having picnics, and listening to the Redline a capella group. There was so much pride and camaraderie. One could feel the energy and excitement in the crowd.

“As students caught first sight of the popemobile, the crowd roared. As he exited the vehicle, he greeted the crowd of cheering CUA students with his arms wide open. When he looked out to the crowd, I felt like he was looking straight at me. I know everyone says that, but I think that is a testament to the kind of man he is. He can make a crowd of hundreds feel like they had a personal connection with him, no matter how brief. “

Tom Horsman, admissions counselor, Class of 2011
“Pope Benedict’s visit to CUA is one of my best memories from college. I remember the banners hanging in the Pryzbyla Center counting down the days until the papal visit. As the time got closer, the media satellite trucks began to appear along the roads in front of McMahon Hall and the Basilica. Finally, the day had come.

“Thousands of pilgrims from all across the country streamed down Michigan Avenue trying to get as close to the Holy Father as they could. I remember crossing over from Spellman Hall to main campus, fighting through the crowds, having to show my Cardinal Card to get past security. Eventually we made our way to the law school mall, surrounded by hundreds of other CUA students. We waited hours to see the pope and I’ll never forget the excitement as the popemobile made its way up to the door of the Pryzbyla Center, greeted by chants of ‘CUA loves the Pope!’”

Chris Pierno, left, with reporter David Ushery, then a reporter with WNBC-NY.

Chris Pierno, assistant director of annual giving, Class of 2011
“‘CUA loves the Pope!’ Those four words have rung through my head since April 2008. I didn't think that coming to Catholic University for college would put me feet away from the spiritual leader of the international Catholic Church, but ‘pope-a-palooza’ is something I will never forget. The campus was beautiful, the students were excited, and all eyes were on our University. I spent the days before the pope arrived geeking out over all the news crews on campus. Being from New York, and with the pope also visiting there, my local news stations were on campus. I was interviewed by a few local stations, especially when they realized I was from New York!

“Living on the South Side of campus in Conaty Hall also made the experience special. Because we lived across the street from main campus, we had to show our Cardinal Cards to get onto campus, giving us instant VIP status, compared to everyone outside. I can close my eyes and remember vividly the shouts of ‘CUA loves the Pope’ as the Holy Father stepped out of his limousine and turned around waving to us. He had come to the United States and decided to stop by the Pryzbyla Center for a chat, walking past the Starbucks I went to, taking the elevator I take, speaking on the campus that was my home. Can't get any better than that.”

On its Facebook and Twitter accounts, CUA asked followers what they remembered most about April 17, 2008. Below are some of their responses.

From Facebook:

Caitlin Alanna ElizabethAnn McMullen
“I remember most watching the Mass on the Pryz lawn, and then cheering at any and every person who walked into the student center!”

Victoria J. Engelstad
“Being a part of the team that was lucky enough to be chosen to design and build his altar furniture for the Mass at Nationals stadium. I'll never forget that great honor!”

Annie McHugh
“Getting to shake his hand and say "I love you, Holy Father" in the Shrine because of my internship at the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, and seeing him at the White House with the President's Society. Being in his presence brought with it an overwhelming sense of the Holy Spirit! I love him!”

Jay Brown
“An incredible outpouring of Catholics — students, religious, and lay, of every race and ethnicity, filled with joy, excited at the opportunity to see the new pontiff in person.”

Elizabeth Krempa
“Chanting ‘CUA loves the Pope!’”

Laura Fidler
“Sitting out with friends on the lawn, waiting for the Pope to drive up in his popemobile. Also, the wonderful blessing of getting to go to the papal Mass. What an incredible day!”

From Twitter:

“The popemobile, people screaming viva el Papa!”

“I remember B16 gathering all the presidents of Catholic colleges & reminding them of the importance of Catholic identity.”

“Being in the Pryz for his talk to educators, the insight of his White House remarks, and his joy at seeing CUA students cheering.”



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