Pope Francis concluded his six-day United States visit by celebrating mass for the conclusion of the World Meeting of Families in Philadelphia on Sunday, and several Ohio State students attended this historic event.
Austin Schafer, the pastoral associate for campus ministry at the St. Thomas More Newman Center, and four OSU students served as bus captains for a group of parishioners from two parishes in the Columbus Diocese that traveled to Philadelphia.
“Pope Francis is the leader of our faith and to be able to take a pilgrimage to see the leader of one billion-plus Catholics is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity,” he said. The Newman Center is the Roman Catholic campus ministry for OSU.
Maria Rimmel, a third-year in human development and family science, also traveled to Philadelphia to see Pope Francis, but went along with a group from her home parish. Rimmel funded her trip to Philadelphia by making the event her project for the Second-year Transformational Experience Program.
“As a proud American and a devout Catholic, I was determined to go see Pope Francis,” Rimmel said. “I used (the money from STEP) for the cost of the trip itself, for food and souvenirs, and I bought a very nice camera.”
Rimmel and the group headed by the student leaders from the Newman Center left Ohio on Sept. 24 to drive to Pennsylvania.
Brad Pierron, a fourth-year in communication, was one of the students who served as a bus captain for the pilgrimage. Pierron said the group visited different shrines and holy places before arriving in Philadelphia, where they saw Pope Francis and celebrated mass.
“Getting to celebrate mass with 1.5 million Catholics, it really made the term universal, which is what Catholic stands for, universal, it made that tangible,” Pierron said. “It was definitely my favorite part.”
Schafer said it was difficult at first to find students who could take time away from their academic schedule in order to lead the pilgrimage and attend the papal mass, but eventually four students answered the call.
Rimmel said that one message of Pope Francis’ sermon specifically stood out for her: acting with love in all things.
“That’s a great way to bring that into everyday life, just do everything for God and for your neighbor,” Rimmel said. “Anything little is good in the eyes of God.”
Pierron also took a similar message away from this experience.
“I’m a better man for having went for the weekend to see the pope,” Pierron said. “I can just feel myself being more humble and more joyous in my day-to-day actions and activities.”