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Students reflect on papal pilgrimage

| Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Sunday, 500 students and faculty members from Notre Dame, Saint Mary’s and Holy Cross College attended the Mass concluding the World Meeting of Families, celebrated by Pope Francis at Benjamin Franklin Parkway in Philadelphia.  

Senior Ethan Muehlstein said he and his friends arrived early and were able to get front-row seats on the route along which Pope Francis processed before Mass.

“We even got to get receive the Eucharist, which was a beautiful moment finding the ministers and the priests through the crowd,” he said. “[As] Christ says, ‘Seek and you will find.’”

Muehlstein said the crowd attending Mass demonstrated the diversity of the Church.

“I was fortunate enough to sit and stand next to a family from Philadelphia and a family from a rural town in Pennsylvania,” he said. “However, the mass truly brought together the universality of the Church, attracting college students and parishioners from all over America, ministry groups from all over the world and many media outlets.”

Sophomore Amanda Ball said attending Mass with the Pope was a powerful experience, and she met people from many different locations who had traveled to attend this particular Mass.

“Some of the people in front of us were from New York and some were from Philadelphia. Both groups spoke a lot of Spanish to one another as both groups had ties to Argentina,” she said. “The group from Philly had two young girls and were there with their friends who had two young kids as well. The group from New York had several college girls with them.”

Muehlstein said he appreciated the opportunity to serve in a leadership role as a bus captain for the journey to Philadelphia.

“Although I did know many of the students participating, I also was able to increase my Notre Dame family by interacting with fellow students whom I may have never met before,” he said.  

Muehlstein said the trip to Philadelphia truly felt like a pilgrimage.

“I prepared for the experience, and maybe the chance in a lifetime, for many weeks before,” he said. “The daily novena leading up to the trip, the mass the night before departure and the spiritual preparation transformed the ‘trip to see the Pope’ into a pilgrimage focusing in on the Word of Christ revealed through the words and action of Pope Francis.

“Because of the pilgrimage, I have returned refreshed and renewed, although tired, and I can continue to become closer to God.”

Ball said the bus trip with other Notre Dame students combined spiritual experiences with more casual bonding experiences.

“Traveling on the bus with the Notre Dame kids had a fun vibe,” she said. “Everyone was very excited to be going and we said the Jesuit Examen both nights, which was nice. … It felt like a pilgrimage in that we prayed together, but it also was a fun trip where we watched some movies.”

Several Saint Mary’s students offered reflections in a blog post for the College. 

Perla Ocadiz, a sophomore at Saint Mary’s, said the crowds of people attending Mass impressed her.

“There were so many people it was beautiful. I hadn’t experienced the greatness of a universal faith until the Papal Mass,” she said. “All the waiting and walking and fasting and Power Bars were worth it, and I will forever cherish it. I thought to myself, ‘The Church is not dead! We are the Church.’”

Ocadiz said receiving the Eucharist at Mass was an amazing experience.

“I was sharing this moment with the leader of our faith … and with all my brothers and sisters,” she said.

Saint Mary’s senior Claire Thornton said she had a wonderful time on the pilgrimage to Philadelphia.

“We got to feel all the energy of the city because of this event,” she said. “The feeling of all these different people coming together for one purpose in one faith was beautiful.

“I also really enjoyed learning and experiencing this historical city. This is where our country started and being able to experience that and see the pope was a blessing all in one.”

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About Catherine Owers

Senior News Writer Catherine Owers is a senior from New Orleans, Louisiana. She is studying English and Theology.

Contact Catherine