Diocesan Catholics greet Pope Benedict XVI - Catholic Courier

Diocesan Catholics greet Pope Benedict XVI

Pope Benedict XVI arrived in Washington, D.C., Tuesday afternoon to begin his first visit to the United States since he became pope in 2005. A number of local residents — Catholic and non-Catholic alike — were on hand to greet him as he made appearances in the nation’s capital and New York City before concluding his visit April 20.
 
Hundreds of local residents traveled to Washington, D.C., and New York City to witness history in the making as the pope visited the White House, Catholic University of America, Washington Nationals baseball stadium, St. Joseph Seminary in Yonkers and Yankee Stadium in the Bronx. At least four of these people will be able to spend at least a few moments in conversation with Pope Benedict.
 
Catholic University senior Peter Osgood is one of those privileged few. He met Pope Benedict when the pontiff addressed Catholic educators at Catholic University’s Edward J. Pryzbyla University Center April 17.
 
A native of Penn Yan, Osgood’s elementary-school years were spent at St. Michael School there, and the school was the topic of an essay he wrote about Catholic education.
 
"I remember vividly how each school day began in prayer. … This truly set the tone for our learning throughout the rest of the day," Osgood wrote. "While my parents were endlessly pleased with the rigorous and thorough education I was receiving, I know they were more proud of the individual I was becoming."
 
Osgood went on to write that although he attended a public middle school and high school, his experience at St. Michael nurtured a desire to return to Catholic education. This desire fueled his decision to attend Catholic University, where he is able to delve into his faith while taking on the rigors of a university-level program in a diverse environment, Osgood wrote.
 
On a whim, Osgood entered his essay into a schoolwide essay contest, the winner of which would be able to meet the pope when he visits the school April 17. He learned April 10 that his essay had been chosen the winner out of 17 other finalists. Osgood’s reaction to the news was one of "pure shock."
 
"I really didn’t expect that," he said. "When I called my dad (to tell him) I think he about fell over, and one of the first things he said was, ‘We’re coming." "I’m on cloud nine. We’re just blown away," his father, Richard Osgood, told the Catholic Courier.
 
The elder Osgood and his wife procured tickets that will allow them to be standing on the lawn when Pope Benedict passes through campus, he said.
 
The pope’s visit has electrified the atmosphere around campus, Peter Osgood noted.
 
"I think everyone’s pretty excited to see him when he comes and just engage him wherever we can and have that experience as opposed to going to Rome and St. Peter’s Square. This is the pope coming to us, to where we live and work every day," he said.
 
Earlier on April 17 Father Robert Ring, pastor of Our Lady of the Lakes Catholic Community in the Finger Lakes, concelebrated Mass with Pope Benedict at Nationals Stadium. Later that afternoon after the pope spoke to Catholic educators, Dr. Muhammad Shafiq, imam and executive director of the Islamic Center of Rochester, was one of more than 200 representatives from five different faiths who discussed the theme "Peace Our Hope" with him at the John Paul II Cultural Center.
 
Bishop Matthew H. Clark also will have an audience with the pope during his visit and will be in attendance at many of the events in both Washington and New York, said Doug Mandelaro, diocesan spokesman. He said Fathers Joseph Hart and John Mulligan, the diocese’s two vicars general, will take part in the Mass at St. Patrick’s Cathedral in New York Saturday morning.
 
Sister Janice Morgan, interim superintendent of the diocesan Catholic schools system, attended Pope Benedict XVI’s address on Catholic education April 17, which he delivered to leaders in higher education and diocesan secondary and elementary education at Catholic University of America. Prior to the talk, Sister Morgan said she appreciates the fact that the meeting with educators was included in the pope’s schedule.
 
"It is a wonderful opportunity to have," she said.
 
Excited preparations
 
Although the pope’s plane didn’t land at Andrews Air Force Base until 4 p.m. Tuesday, preparations for his arrival in the nation’s capital were already well under way.
 
Catholic University of America student Lucy Consler, who is a parishioner of Our Mother of Sorrows Church in Greece, said events were scheduled throughout the week for university students to prepare for the pope. Monday night, more than 150 students took part in a candlelight rosary around the campus for his safe travels and the success of his trip.
 
"It was really beautiful," Consler said. Tuesday evening, the students made banners and posters to welcome the pontiff, and Wednesday, there was an all-night prayer vigil, confessions and an all-night adoration of the Eucharist. Consler explained that students also had adoration when Pope John Paul II visited campus in 1979.
 
Students had several opportunities to see the pope on or near campus. On Wednesday evening, he addressed the U.S. Catholic bishops at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception, which is adjacent to the campus. Several thousand students, alumni, faculty and staff had the chance to greet the pope as he arrived and departed.
 
Students also greeted the pope as he arrived at the campus’ Edward J. Pryzbyla University Center for his April 17 meeting with educators Thursday and afterwards as he used the popemobile to get to the campus’ Pope John Paul II Cultural Center for his meeting with interfaith leaders. Consler said students had planned a "Rock the Pope" rally April 17 to help them get primed for his arrival.
 
In addition to news trucks throughout the campus, Consler said there were many other outward signs of preparations for the pope’s visit. Tightened security measures included requiring all students on campus during the visit to wear student identification at all times.
 
"They took out mailboxes, where we put our mail in," Consler said prior to the pope’s visit. "People in the dorms near where the pope will be have been told to keep their blinds closed."
 
Classes took place Monday and Tuesday but were been canceled Wednesday and Thursday, she said.
 
Outside the Catholic University campus more preparations for the pope’s arrival were being made.
 
"D.C. is certainly bustling with excitement, with Vatican flags lining Pennsylvania Avenue (and) police practicing the road closures of the route that the popemobile will take," said Keith Smith, a Rochester native who now lives and works in Washington. "(It’s) definitely exciting to be a witness to history."
 
Smith stood on the South Lawn of the White House when President George W. and Laura Bush welcomed him to the White House at 10:30 a.m. April 17. Smith, who is director of advocacy and policy research for the National Association of Manufacturers, worked with the White House staff and was able to obtain two more tickets, which he gave to Mercy Sisters Katherine Ann Rappl, principal of St. Rita School in Webster, and Miriam Nugent, pastoral associate at St. Charles Borromeo Church in Greece.
 
"(Sister Rappl) actually was my former principal at St. Rita’s," Smith said. "I always try to keep in touch. I knew that this year was a pretty special year for her."
 
Smith had heard that this year marks Sister Rappl’s 25th year as principal at St. Rita and her 50th as a Sister of Mercy. She also was recently crowned Rochester’s "Most Loved School Principal" by radio station WARM 101.3, he said.
 
On the morning of April 15, Sisters Rappl and Nugent left for Washington, where they had planned to meet up with Smith. Both were excited about soon being in such close proximity to the pope.
 
"I can’t believe it. It’s kind of a dream," Sister Rappl said.
 
Pilgrims prepare Later this week hundreds of diocesan pilgrims will board several buses bound for New York City. Approximately 60 youths and 10 chaperones from five diocesan parishes are preparing to join 25,000 others for Pope Benedict’s April 19 rally with youths and seminarians at St. Joseph Seminary in Yonkers, said Mike Drexler, faith-formation coordinator at St. Agnes Parish in Avon.
 
Several men from the Diocese of Rochester who are in the process of discerning vocations to the priesthood also will attend the rally, according to Carol Dady, diocesan vocation-awareness coordinator.
 
The young pilgrims and their chaperones hail from St. Agnes Parish, Our Mother of Sorrows Parish in Greece, St. Mary of the Assumption Parish in Scottsville, Holy Trinity Parish in Webster and St. Luke the Evangelist Parish in Geneseo, Leicester, Mount Morris, Nunda and Retsof. Most of these pilgrims attended a prayer service and preparatory meeting April 13 at Church of the Transfiguration in Pittsford, where they met their fellow travelers from other parishes and learned more about Pope Benedict, his journey to the United States and their journey to Yonkers.
 
"We’ve come together to get to know each other in community as well as pray together for a safe journey and a safe trip, and we’re also going to be praying for the pope himself," Rob Layer said at the beginning of the meeting.
 
Layer, youth minister at Our Mother of Sorrows, told the young people a little about Pope Benedict and his role in the church before leading a short prayer service for the pope.
 
"The pope has three main jobs. He’s a teacher, he’s a governor and he’s a sanctifier," he said. "He teaches through his writing and preaching about Jesus. He governs, or leads, with the authority handed on to him from St. Peter, the first pope. He sanctifies, or helps make holy, through prayer and the sacraments."
 
After the prayer service Theresa Fantone, youth minister at St. Agnes, helped the young people meet each other and take the first step toward forming new friendships through a musical-chairs-style ice-breaker activity. Instead of taking away a chair when the clapping stopped, however, Fantone asked the youths to partner up with the new people they were now next to and share any papal experiences they’ve had thus far.
 
"My dad went to see the pope once," 13-year-old Becky Drexler told her partner. "He went to this big youth day. It was the first one ever and he just happened to be there."
 
"I’ve had no pope experience whatsoever," replied Mariel Brinkerhoff of St. Agnes.
 
Becky, who also belongs to St. Agnes, said she was looking forward to meeting new people at the youth rally, although she’s also looking forward to spending time with the friends traveling with her.
 
Mother of Sorrows parishioners Linsey Smith and Alex Bellanca, both 17, said they are looking forward to meeting new people and seeing the thousands of people who will be at the rally.
 
"This doesn’t happen very often," Linsey remarked.
 
"It’s really a once-in-a-lifetime chance," agreed 13-year-old Victoria Zaneuto, whose sentiments also were echoed by her younger brother, Alex. Both pilgrims belong to Mother of Sorrows.
 
Fifteen-year-old Holly Drummond grew up hearing stories of how her parents were in Houston when Pope John Paul II visited that city years ago, and is looking forward to her own papal experience.
 
"It just seemed like a fun thing to do," she said.
 
"It’d be cool to kind of see the head, lead person of the church and our faith," added Chas Streb of St. Luke the Evangelist.
 
Fantone recently took a trip to Yonkers to see St. Joseph Seminary and scout out places for the group to eat and walk. The seminary and its setting reminded her of Colgate Rochester Crozer Divinity School, she said.
 
"It looks like something out of Harry Potter. It’s on this hill, and there’s all this land next to it," Fantone said, adding that the rally will take place outdoors on the open space by the seminary.
 
The young pilgrims and their chaperones will board buses and leave the diocese before 4 a.m. April 19 in order to be in Yonkers in time for the rally. After the rally, they’ll make their way back to buses and head for home. The next day, more than 400 other diocesan Catholics also will board buses, but these are bound for Yankee Stadium, where Pope Benedict will celebrate Mass at 2 p.m. April 20. Mass-goers also will return to their buses and head home after the Mass.
 
The weekend promises to be exhausting for the travelers, but they are not the only ones making pilgrimages, Drexler explained to the young people at the April 13 meeting.
 
"A pilgrimage is … a trip with very special significance. … In our case, the pope is coming from a very long way to see us," Drexler said. "Did you know that he’ll be on a plane twice as long as we’ll be on a bus? This is a pilgrimage for us, and for the pope." This story was updated on April 18, 2008.

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