John Carroll University students were blessed with the opportunity to meet with other Jesuit colleges and enjoy Pope Francis’ first visit to the United States on Saturday, Sept. 18. Students, resident ministers and faculty member Tina Facca-Meiss boarded the charter bus bound for Philadelphia. Canisius College students in Buffalo, NY were also present and stayed in Sutowski Hall the night before the trip.
The JCU group was greeted by Saint Joseph’s University students, who guided them to where they would be staying. JCU students were led to the athletic center on the campus to store their belongings in the multipurpose room, sharing it with Georgetown and Creighton Universities.
At 10 p.m. after JCU students waited for two hours, Pope Francis’ motorcade arrived. The security included Philadelphia police, military police, the secret service and a helicopter with a spotlight surveilling all the land in a five mile radius. The motorcade for Pope Francis started with several police motorcycles that had their lights on, but no sirens, followed by several black Chevy Tahoes. Finally, at 10:08 p.m., the Pope sped past and waved in his Fiat.
Junior Evin Tolentino said, “The most powerful moment I had of the trip was our group’s impromptu stake out on City Ave., where we waited to see Pope Francis in his Fiat. I cannot believe that he waved at us. Knowing that he was less than 20 feet from us and waving at us, I have never felt more spiritually moved in my life. I saw his face and I am still in shock that he nodded at me while waving a cutout of his face!”
Tolentino was also enamored and moved by Pope Francis’s point about reflecting on family. “I firmly believe in what Pope Francis had to say about how we are all a part of the human family and that it is our duty to cultivate the new generation to break down divisions and to celebrate communion with each other,” said Tolentino. “I had that experience in line waiting to get through security and it is true, we are a family and we should treat each other like so.”
On Sunday, the day of the Mass, JCU students left Saint Joseph’s University at 8:45 a.m., walking six and a half miles to downtown Philadelphia. At 11:40 a.m., students marched down John F. Kennedy Blvd. and 15th Ave. among thousands of other people, where they encountered various blockades as they attempted to get to the security checkpoint.
After three hours and no movement in the security line, students opted to find another option, disappointed that they could not see Pope Francis drive by in the popemobile. Eventually, the majority of the group voted to find a jumbo screen and watch the Mass from there.
Following the Mass, at 6:45 p.m., students started their trip back to St. Joseph University. They retrieved their belongings, changed clothes, enjoyed a final meal and commenced their journey home. In the bus on the way home, everyone was asked to say one word or a phrase to describe their experience on the trip. The reflections varied from humbling to memorable. However, according to students on the trip, the most memorable aspect was that they gained a slight understanding of what it meant to be displaced as they slept on a gym floor, walked miles and had to find solace for their sore and tired bodies on a dirty sidewalk, waiting for Pope Francis’ Mass to begin under an awning of an office building. The trip, overall, helped students remember what it means to be Catholic Jesuit, as well as providing a greater understanding of Ignatian values.
Sophomore Emily Mullen said, “Attending a Jesuit college and being able to see a Jesuit pope in person, who loves young people, was really exciting. To me, it was really powerful when Pope Francis said that love is our mission. It struck me today when I was doing a post-service reflection because there was a quote from Pope Francis that was talking about different cultures, races and religions accepting each other and the beliefs they have.”
Editor’s Note: More information about campus ministry, immersion trips and retreats is available from the campus ministry offices in the student center, located near the Murphy Room and LSC conference room.