Saint Anselm Community Travels to Philadelphia to See Pope Francis

At three-thirty on the dot on the morning of September 27, 2015, 54 students, faculty, and staff boarded a double decker bus in pursuit of the Holy Father of the Roman Catholic Church, Pope Francis. The short trip, spanning only 24 hours, resembled a modern day pilgrimage: the participants sacrificed sleep, routine, and a normal weekend for a chance to gain a glimpse of the Pope.

Last week, Sept. 21-25, the Saint Anselm College community watched as Pope Francis traveled from Washington D.C., to New York City, N.Y., to Philadelphia, Penn. The main event on Sunday, Sept. 27, on the last leg of the visit, was a Mass for the Family, focused on the aspect of the modern, varied family, celebrated by the Holy Father himself.

Saint Anselm students at Papal MassThe 4 p.m. Mass was scheduled a mere 12 hours after the participants left Saint Anselm College. The group arrived in Philadelphia, Penn. at noon, parked, and made their way into the center of the city. When they finally reached The Benjamin Franklin Parkway, where they hoped to be able to enter the inner crowd closest to the Pope, they found the area unfortunately already full.

However, even from far away, the group was able to celebrate the beauty of the Mass. A few blocks away, they were still within earshot of the echo of the speakers and the incredible choir.

Director of Campus Ministry, Susan Gabert described the experience of Mass saying, “Just being at a Mass led by our shepherd the Holy Father, with 1.5 million others – singing hymns, praying the our father, exchanging the sign of peace. It was so moving. Such a tangible example of the universality of our Catholic Church.”

Participant Kayla Patten ’17 said, “Holding hands while singing the “Our Father’ was one of the most moving experiences of the entire trip.”

The Pope’s homily proclaimed by the modern day Prophet, focused on themes of community and love. As Gabert explained, “He said ‘Holiness is always tied to small gestures…love shown by little things.’” She continued, “He called us to action of love in our homes, in our society, asking ‘what kind of world do we want to leave for our children?’”

While many predicted that the Holy Father would focus on heated issues, he chose to expound on the message of the coming Year of Mercy, which will focus on the idea that "No one can be excluded from God's mercy."

Participants connected their experience to the Pope’s message. “We were able to take this opportunity to recognize ourselves and others together as part of God's family, seeing one another not as strangers, but as sons and daughters of Christ, made in His image,” said Jenny Richard ’17.

Many, including Campus Minister Andrew Fellows commented that this Pope makes him very proud to be a Catholic.

“If you ask me, going to see the Pope is definitely a once in a lifetime experience,” said freshman Braelyn Croteau, who hoped this opportunity would help her connect with God another way.

“He is the closest path to God, and praying with him will only strengthen my prayer. I am humbled that I was in his presence.”

The trip was sponsored by the generosity of the college chapter of the Knights of Columbus.

This amazing opportunity is truly an example of our Patron, Saint Anselm’s eternal message of “faith seeking understanding.” This opportunity to live out the Benedictine tradition of the Catholic Faith is priceless to our own Anselmians but to all who were able to attend.