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
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
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
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