7 45 a.m. EDT
On a bright sunny Tuesday morning, a group of bright eyed young people gathered with chaperones outside the Nunciature, the residence of the Nuncio, Archbishop Carlo M. Vigano, the Vatican´s Ambassador to the US.  

The students were elementary through high school age.  Students that attend Catholic Schools were clearly visible by their uniforms and school logos. The students from the all boy schools of Georgetown Prep and Gonzaga College Prep were unmistakable in their blazers and ties. 

The gleeful youth also hailed from a variety of parishes from the Maryland and Washington area. Some from southern Maryland said they had to wake up at 3 a.m. to make sure they arrived on time.  Even St. Anthony's Catholic Elementary School, a school located not far from the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in the Brookland neighborhood, gathered in the wee hours of the morning to ensure they arrived on time and with minimal interruptions.   If the kids were tired, you could not tell by the joyful anticipation on their faces.

If you would have asked these kids 2 weeks ago if they might actually see the Pope, they would not have believed it. They said, "The Pope? I mean the Pope? I can't believe I am here." 

The young men from Gonzaga, a Jesuit high school, spoke of St. Ignatius and how cool it was that the Pope was a Jesuit.  The high school students selected were chosen for their leadership and commitment to serving others.  The "12" young men serve their classmates through campus ministry including planning retreats and living the "Faith."  They proudly spoke about the "Food for Friends" program through which a group of young men ride in a van filled with lunches for homeless men and women in downtown D.C.

There were cheers and chants every time the youth thought it was the Pope coming through the doors.  Apparently the opening and closing of the doors had them holding their breath over and over.  

Once they saw the Papal Fiat roll out from the back of the building into the semicircular drive the group knew the Pope would appear soon.  They were close to the vehicle he would enter which meant they might be really really close to the Pope. When the Pope saw the kids, he worked his way from one end of the barricade to the other, taking his time and looking at the faces of each person he encountered with endearment. Even when the Pope said nothing, he said it all with his warm smile.  

Another young person had no words, just happy tears.  

An 8 year old little girl was asked, "How was it?"  She gave a bashful smile and then sheepishly responded, "it was nice," then she hid behind her handful of yellow and white Vatican flags.  

One of the chaperones who accompanied kids from St. Bernardo in Hyattsville, MD was eager to share, "We're the people he talks about. We're the ones on the periphery!" 

She proudly stated that her parish was a very diverse church with a strong Latino community. "We have people from Mexico, from El Salvador, Peru, Colombia...  He is one of us!"

Across the street and right in front of the Naval Observatory, where Vice President Biden resides, a riser was filled with dedicated followers who were cheering.  Many chanted in Spanish as they held homemade welcome signs. 

Before he left the grounds of the Nunciature, high schooler Gabe Aguto shared with his fellow classmates and headmaster "I can't believe I just met the Pope. All I could say to him was, "Te quiero, Papa." (I love you, Pope)

After greeting as many kids as possible and asking them for prayers, Pope Francis stepped into his Papal Fiat and headed south to the White House.  


Filed by: Estela Astacio