Sisters and Students Trek to Philadelphia to See the Pope

Elizabeth Neill '17, Writer

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While the rest of the student body was celebrating Homecoming back in California, a select group of Marin Catholic students were celebrating Pope Francis’ historic first visit to the United States. Consisting of mainly sophomores, juniors, and seniors, this special crew traveled with the Sisters to witness the Pope’s last stop in Philadelphia on the weekend of September 26th. Pope Francis went on a week-long trip filled with Masses, visits to the homeless, touring local Catholic schools, attending the World Meeting of Families in Philadelphia, and giving speeches to Congress, the White House, and the United Nations. Pope Francis trekked from the Vatican to three East Coast cities: Washington D.C., New York City, and Philadelphia (in addition to visiting Cuba prior to the United States). Our MC students are proud they got to witness and be a part of it. The Roar interviewed two such students about their pilgrimage to Philadelphia. Read on to see what juniors Mariana Flores-Chavez and Brajae Jones have to share.

Flores-Chavez described their basic trip-itinerary as consisting of traveling by train, bus, or by foot. On Friday, the group toured the “City of Brotherly Love”. On Saturday, they visited terminal cancer patients and went to Independence Hall, where the Pope was scheduled to give his speech. “We waited seven hours to see him, but it was totally worth it!”, exclaimed Flores-Chavez. She continued by saying, “Our whole trip was so fun and well-planned by the Sisters. Without them, I doubt we could have had as much fun as we did.” On the group’s last day, they ventured to the Philadelphia Art Museum, where Pope Francis was saying a Mass for thousands.

Jones characterized the Philadelphia crowd’s atmosphere as “full of excitement and joy”. Countless people were cheering excitedly, especially when Pope Francis drove by their sections of the crowd. Flores-Chavez added that the experience of seeing so many people gathered together for the same loving purpose was “insane”. The congregation was filled with innumerable exotic cultures and religions. “We met people from all over the U.S. and even met a Colombian man from Canada and a lady from Serbia,” Flores-Chavez said. “We heard so many languages and saw so many different cultural groups on the streets gathering to welcome Pope Francis.”

The MC students and Sisters were fortunate enough to be able to see the Pope on three different occasions. “We saw the Pope twice on Saturday, once being the time we waited seven hours at Independence Hall, and then again later that night. Our third time seeing him was on Sunday for Mass before we left to go to the airport,” Flores-Chavez related. Jones recounted her special experience like this: “[Being in] Philadelphia constantly reminded you that the Pope was coming, and that we would see him. From the endless flags seen plastered with his face and quotes, to the numerous salesmen selling merchandise that represented him, to the enormously large crowd, we really knew that this moment was actually happening.” When asked to comment further, Jones finished succinctly, “[Pope Francis] is a very kind and knowledgeable man who was very respectful about the common issues that are impacting our world and nation.”

The experience greatly deepened the students’ faiths as well. Jones addressed the fact that even though she is not a Catholic, “[I]t was amazing to see the Pope; I wanted to go because I knew this would be a once-in-a-lifetime chance. I feel as if my faith has changed because of going to chapel with the Sisters and other students …. My time spent in that beautiful Church drew me closer to God.” Flores-Chavez said she also felt her faith was amplified during the few days she was on the trip because of how much time she was able to spend time talking and bond with the Sisters. “[That experience] is something not everyone can say has happened to them, so it was especially beautiful”.

The most touching part of the trip for both girls was meeting all the different people including families, students, priests, seminarians, and other sisters, and being able to share the whole experience with them. “I didn’t even mind missing Homecoming,” said Flores-Chavez when asked what motivated her to attend this trip. “I was invited by Sister Teresa Benedicta and I definitely didn’t hesitate to say no!”

To conclude the interview, the two girls were asked to share a funny moment from the trip. Jones told us about how the squad waited at the fence line for seven hours for the Pope to drive past. “We had front row seats, and the Pope came around kissing and blessing babies, so a pair of parents asked if I could hold their child high enough and far enough so that I might be lucky enough to have the Pope come near us.” Their time spent in Philadelphia allowed the pupils to grow in their faiths and bond with others, from fellow MC students, to the Sisters, to the extraordinary individuals they joined along the journey. This moment is certainly one that none of them will forget!

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