Kellenberg Students Share Experience of their Encounter with Pope Francis

Oct 08 2015

Victoria Monaco ’19:

Being a part of the group for this trip and getting to see Pope Francis was truly an amazing experience and has certainly changed my life forever. I am so grateful and thankful that I was able to be a part of this and represent the Kellenberg family. This trip was not just a, “let’s go see the Pope and go home,” type of thing though. It was a full day of walking, waiting, and doing things to make the time pass which was very fun and interesting actually.

That morning it was a beautiful day. We got on a Kellenberg bus and drove to a diner near the train station and ate a delicious breakfast. Little did we know it was the beginning of a life-changing day. After breakfast, we walked to the train station and waited for the train. We took some pictures and had some laughs, getting to know each other better little by little. The train ride there was a semi-quiet one– inside I was so excited. After that we started walking towards the first check-point station.

I think we went in circles about three times before we realized we weren’t getting anywhere due to all of the street closures. It was early enough though so we weren’t in a rush. We finally got to the first check-point station and that’s when it really hit me that we were going to be waiting for a while.

We found a nice open spot to stand and got settled there. When we got on line where we met up with a friendly Kellenberg face, Mrs. Mannion and her husband. After a while Mr. Moran showed us these games that lasted all day. We waited about 7 hours for Pope Francis to come but you knew right away when he got there. Not just from all the police cars and lights but the whole mood of the crowd that had changed, you could feel his warm presence.

I think some of us were shaking. We were really lucky to have gotten a spot right in front. As he passed by everyone pointed their phones to take a photo. The feeling was ecstatic. He passed by pretty quickly but I immediately felt different as he blessed everyone. I don’t really know how but inside I just had this indescribable, warm feeling. It made me so happy and strengthened my faith a lot. This trip was such an incredible experience and I will never forget it.

Nicholas Castelli ’17:

When I was pulled out of my retreat by Mr. O’Brien on Wednesday September 23, I was convinced I was in trouble, because it was so sudden and unexpected. I had no idea or thought that I was about to be given the opportunity to see the Holy Father.

Once Mr. Finn explained to us that we had the opportunity to see the Holy Father he asked if we were interested, I did not hesitate or need to think, it was obvious what answer I would give.

It was a great day to be in the city, it was beautiful weather. While in the city heading over to the spot to give our tickets, I started realizing how many people came to New York with the sole purpose of seeing Pope Francis. While waiting in line to get in, we met some very friendly people around us who joined in playing games with us. When we got in and started waiting the five hours we would have to wait, we met some people who came all the way from Texas for the weekend, not to go sight seeing in the city or shopping, but to see Pope Francis.

Everyone got more and more excited as everyone was checking Twitter and other social media to see if the Pope had landed yet. Once it was announced that he landed in New York, everyone got even more excited. When the police motorcycles approached and they began moving forward and the cars followed, everyone started screaming, “we love you Pope Francis.” Then the moment came when he passed us in his car waving.

I’ve seen famous people from a relatively close distance before, and this was by far the best. Simply because he’s different, he has a natural genuine smile that makes you know that even though he doesn’t personally know you, he loves and cares for you and all of God’s people. Afterwards I realized how much this meant to me and others. Walking back to Penn Station made me see so many people, so many more people than I thought that came to see the Pope. There were some people who weren’t even Catholic but admired him and wanted to see him. It was an honor to see the Holy Father and I am very thank full to have been given the opportunity to see him.

Cassi Galante ’16:

On September 23, 2015, I was given the opporuntiy to represent my school by going into the city and to see the Pope. I could not have been more honored and thankful for being thought of to attend this event. I don’t know how I can ever express my full gratitude to the person who donated the tickets, except to say that this was an experience that I will never forget.

The other students, who I had never met before the day, made the experience ten times better. Before we left for the city, we went to a diner in Rockville Centre. While we were there, people came up to us and said how much they loved our school and one even said he had gone there. It felt really nice having alumni even at the most random places.

We arrived in the city around 11:30 AM. After taking the train into Penn Station, we made our way towards Saint Patrick’s Cathedral by foot and subway (and may have walked in a circle or two) trying to get where we had to go. It was a fun and funny experience. When we got to the point where we gave our tickets, we had to stand in line for about 30 minutes and everyone around us was just so nice and genuine.

I think those are the kind of people that the Pope and the Church bring together. I, along with the other people in the group, spoke with an older couple from South Carolina, originally from Ireland, and they were the kindest people. We were playing games with them while waiting on line and talking with them. It was so great to connect with strangers through a shared faith.

Once we got past security, we lined up against the fence, took a picture or two and waited. We waited for what felt like forever! We played more games and got to know each other really well during the time we were waiting, both within our group and the people around us. We all became great friends and I could not have imagined sharing this spectacular experience with anyone else. Even the police officers and secret service people were so nice, taking pictures for us and complimenting us on our uniforms.

When it came around to the time when the Pope was supposed to arrive we all stood up after sitting for hours. More people poured into the area and it got a little tight, but we were right in front. We didn’t want to lose our spot, so we all persevered. Standing there squished next to random people was okay because we were all there for the same reason and it just made it all the more special.

Towards the end, everyone was smiling and laughing with complete strangers. I didn’t even know their names, but I will never forget their faces and our excitement and happiness. When the Pope showed up after all of the waiting, it was completely worth it! It was just amazing to be able to see him up close. He was literally 10 feet in front of me! Seeing everyone cheering for him and being a part of this great experience made me feel really special. This whole experience made me really appreciate my faith and realize how truly blessed I am to have been raised up in this Church.

The most moving part of the day was realizing that everyone in this crowd believes what I believe in, Catholicism, and we can share this moment together. I was just so thankful to be there. I really don’t know how I was so lucky to be able to go and I just felt so blessed. I will definitely never forget this beautiful experience and, honestly, have never been more proud or happier that I go to a school that made this possible for me.


By Elizabeth Huggard ’18:

The day that I saw Pope Francis was one of the most memorable and special days of my life. The morning of September 24th was just like any other morning. I woke up, put on my uniform, went to school, and entered homeroom at 8:05. The special thing was, when I went into homeroom, I signed out and went into the ARK instead.

When I went into the ARK, all of the students I was going to go into the city with were there. The smiles on all of our faces showed our excitement. Our group of 8 students and Mr. Moran went outside and onto a bus, and we were dropped off at the train station in Rockville Centre. Since it was early, and we still had some time before our train left, we went into a diner to have breakfast. All of us were quiet, there wasn’t that much talking because we did not know each other that well, but that would soon change!

The group then got on the train into Penn Station, and hopped onto the subway once we entered the city.
We got off the subway, checked the address on our tickets, and began to walk to the entrance of 5th Avenue. We got on line around 12:15, and security opened at 1:00. As we waited, we played a lot of games, and had a lot of fun talking and getting to know each other. When we were able to go into our spots, we were very fortunate to be up against the railings, as close as we could get!

We all sat down at the beginning, because we knew that soon we would be standing for a while. All of us became friends with each other, and made friends around us. It was amazing to know that most of these people surrounding us shared the same faith, and everyone there knew how important Pope Francis was.

After a few hours of waiting, we heard the Pope had landed in New York. The entire crowd got so excited, and we all kept looking to see if he was here yet. At last, I could see a man with a little white hat stepping onto the Popemobile. I began to shake, and I was so excited that the moment we had all been waiting for was finally here!

Everyone began to cheer, and as many motorcycles and cars began to drive forward, we all knew the procession was finally about to begin. Like any other teenage girl, I took out my phone so that I would be ready to take pictures. The pope was right there– right by me! I took pictures, but as he passed, I noticed myself lowering my phone. In that moment, I was watching the Pope not on TV, not through a phone, or in a picture. I was looking at the leader of my Church through my own eyes. He waved at the crowd, and as soon as he passed, everyone fell silent.

I began to pray, and everyone in the group looked at each other with eyes wide open, in awe of what had just happened. None of us could believe that we ourselves had just seen the Pope, and once the initial shock passed, we all talked to family members to tell them about our experience.

As we ate dinner and then rode the train home, we were all so happy. It didn’t even seem like the same day that we had gone to school in the morning and had had breakfast at the diner. I am truly blessed that I was able to witness this amazing experience, with seven amazing people who I am happy to call not only my peers, but my friends. I am so incredibly grateful to Kellenberg and the Marianist community for allowing me to live out my faith and for giving me this incredible opportunity.

By Jessie Brower ’17:

“For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them.” Matthew 18:20

Thousands of Catholics congregating, just hoping to catch a glimpse of possibly the closest man in relation to God– the pope. Two weeks ago, a few of my classmates and I were given the opportunity to see Pope Francis, an experience many don’t get to have in their lifetime.

The day consisted of standing in a mix of people waiting to see the “man of the hour.” However, I thought it was so beautiful to think that everyone here had the same beliefs as me. The older woman next to me with her daughter was a follower of Christ. The high school teens across the way from me probably study the Bible in school every day, just like me. The man a few yards away waving the flag believes Jesus is the son of God who came to bring us all eternal salvation.

I usually view New York City as a place full of citizens who are sometimes impatient, rude, and arrogant, but not today. It was almost as if everyone took a break from their own lives to focus on their faith. It’s not every day that there are thousands professing their beliefs for all to see, especially in the busy city of New York.

Then, as soon as the man in white garments stepped into his white popemobile, it was as if it was Christmas. Men, women, and children jumping up and down, going up on their tippy-toes, stretching their necks to see the man they’ve only seen on TV or in the papers.

As quickly as it came, the moment became the past and there was just peace and happiness in the crowd, just like Christmas night. I would like to thank Kellenberg for giving me the once in a lifetime opportunity that I truly will never forget.

By Andrew Russell ’17:

On September 24th, 2015, I was blessed to be able to have the opportunity to be invited to see the Pope in person. A few tickets were donated to Kellenberg Memorial High School and I was asked to miss a day of school to go to New York City to see the Pope as he drove by in his car to attend a mass at St Patrick’s Cathedral. I thank the person who donated those tickets with my whole heart as they allowed me a day that I will never forget as long as I live. This is my reflection of that wonderful day.

When I woke up that morning I was very excited for the long day that awaited me. Mr. Moran led us on this journey and we were very lucky to have someone that cared so much about their faith and religion to share the experience with. I was also accompanied by a small group of other students that were very serious and proud of their faith. I didn’t really realize the magnitude of what I was about to witness until I was on the train heading into the city. I realized that I was about to see the holiest man in the world and the closest representation to Jesus possible. Going into that day I was very fond of Pope Francis and how he has tried to grow Catholicism and makes it clear to always seek forgiveness and to forgive.

After joyfully waiting five short hours it was almost time for the Pope to pass by. The number of people there was astonishing. It was amazing to see how many people just in a few blocks filled worshiped Jesus and who shared the same beliefs I do. Coming into that day I always heard about how big Christianity is but when you go to Church it’s not always filled and you never get to realize how many people share their faith with you. I don’t have an estimate of how many people were there, but it was incredible and filled to the every square inch you could get on that sidewalk. Not only was it packed but there was a certain buzz in the air. People were so excited they started chanting “Pope Francis Pope Francis”. Seeing all those people and all that energy made me proud and honored to be a Catholic and made me want to tell people about my faith and to be happy about it. That alone made me a better Catholicism.

Finally, when Pope Francis passed by on top of his white jeep was a moment never to be forgotten. He may have passed for only a few seconds but it felt like a few minutes. It was amazing seeing him. At one point when he was only about twenty feet away it hit me. The best example I could give realistically give to that moment was if you could imagine yourself in the presence of St. Peter because that’s what it was like.

Pope Francis in the line of St. Peter as head of the Catholic Church was right in front of me. It’s almost like I could feel a sense of holiness in the air around me. I wanted to just run up to the Pope and just give him a hug. Although I didn’t see the rainbows in the city, I had heard afterward that rainbows appeared in the sky of the city that day even though it wasn’t a rainy day. That shows how amazing and beautiful of a day it was. I don’t know the scientific explanation but my explanation was it was God smiling down on Pope Francis. When that moment was over I was sad but it was amazing the effect it left on me and how blessed I was to be able to experience it.

The experience of seeing the Pope was one I will never forget. It truly made me grow as a Catholic and become an even better one. Even though when Pope Francis passed by I wasn’t on my best behave pushing and squeezing for every inch I could get. This is an experience I will never forgot and it will have an effect on me for the rest of my life. Thank you to whoever donated those tickets and allowed me to experience it.


By Lourdes Rohan ’18:

“I in them and you in me. May they be brought to complete unity to let the world know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.” John 17:23

Jesus expressed His will that all humans be united through love of God the Creator. In a society where the common beliefs of all Christian faiths are being labeled inferior to the mainstream frame of mind, this unity is beginning to seem harder and harder to achieve. I was blessed with an unbelievable opportunity to join thousands in welcoming Pope Francis into Manhattan on September 23rd.

Throughout the day I witnessed unity from small to massive scales only possible through love of God. The streets of Manhattan were radiating the joy of the tens of thousands of people gathered to watch the Holy Father take his drive to St. Patrick’s Cathedral, and my seven fellow Firebirds and I were ecstatic to be able to gather with them. We braved the five hour wait and were able to be united with each other as well as our chaperone, Mr. Moran, through our excitement and appreciation of the event that was about unfold before our eyes.

People of all different ethnicities, cultures, and religions were enthralled by the sense of togetherness and common excitement that was brought about by the arrival of Pope Francis in our nation. He stands for all that Jesus willed for us: unification of all believers to show the world God’s great love for all.

When Pope Francis finally boarded the Popemobile, the crowds erupted into cheers and claps. We were all pressed up against the railing to get closer and to see him smiling and waving at the crowds. As he passed by us I stopped cheering and just marveled in his simplicity and genuine joy. I could feel the presence of God in his smile, in the people around me, and in the cheers of my new friends.

When the Pope was too far down the block to see clearly anymore the crowds immediately began to disperse, but the atmosphere was completely different. We were all filled with joy and awe; we had just had an encounter with the leader of our Church. We had been a part of something much bigger than just going into Manhattan to take pictures of the Pope. We had been brought together in unity with millions of others all over the country to make the world a witness of God’s great power and love. I will never be able to express my gratitude for this experience.

By Brendan Connelly ’18:

Going to see the pope was a life changing experience for me. The day started off with a nice breakfast at a diner where we got to know each other more. After breakfast, we traveled to the city and played fun games on the train ride there. When we finally reached the line for our section, it was 12:30. We reached our spot at 1:15 and we all knew that it would be a long wait from there.Waiting in my spot for five hours was not exactly my cup of tea, but I knew that it would all be worth it when I got to see the pope.

By around 6:00, people started to get exciting because we knew that Pope Francis had arrived in New York City and was on his way over with a helicopter. That was when people started to get as close to the edge of the fence as possible to see the pope. Luckily, we got there extremely early so we were right on the edge of the barrier.

Once I heard the loud cheers coming down from the street, I knew that he was entering his car. I did not know why but I felt extremely nervous and excited at the same time. This was probably because I was meeting such an important figure in our faith life. As he started to come towards us, I felt a level of happiness that I had never felt before. There was an overwhelming feeling of joy and holiness that came over me as I saw the pope pass me. I felt like I was seeing an image of God, and I truly felt blessed at this moment. Once I realized that the moment was over, the rest of the night was kind of a shock until I got in my dad’s car and saw the happy smile on his face.

Overall, going to see Pope Francis was probably the most important moment in my Catholic life. I felt that seeing him up close, really brought me to a whole new level in my faith life and I am truly blessed that Kellenberg chose me to go and see Pope Francis. Not only did my faith increase, but the rest of us that went to see the pope would share a bond that would last forever. This will be a day that I will never forget and I am so happy to have shared it with my new friends.