Father Jenkins and Notre Dame’s ‘Pope Francis Generation’ Welcome a Special Guest

Notre Dame President Rev. John I. Jenkins, C.S.C., and some 500 of the University’s students, faculty, and staff were among those welcoming Pope Francis to the United States on his first visit here September 22-27.

“The arrival of Pope Francis on his first visit to the United States is a moment of real grace for our Church and for our country,” Father Jenkins said. “It is appropriate, and wonderful, that the Notre Dame family be so enthusiastically involved in his welcome.”

Father Jenkins was at a welcoming ceremony and meeting of Pope Francis with President Obama at the White House on September 23. Later that day, at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception, when Pope Francis presided at the Canonization Mass of Junipero Serra, Father Jenkins was among his concelebrants. On the following morning, September 24, he was also a guest for the pope’s address to a joint session of Congress.

“Our students are the ‘Pope Francis Generation,’ and the Holy Father’s call to love, mercy, and service will echo throughout their lives.”

— Rev. William M. Lies, C.S.C.

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Nearly 2 million people joined Pope Francis for an outdoor Mass on September 27 (Sunday) on the Benjamin Franklin Parkway in Philadelphia at the conclusion of the 2015 World Meeting of Families, and members of Notre Dame’s Papal Visit Pilgrimage were among them.

Sponsored by the Office of Campus Ministry, the Office of the Vice President for Mission Engagement and Church Affairs, the Center for Ethics and Culture, and the Institute for Church Life, the Notre Dame pilgrims overflowed the seats available on the nine buses which took them from campus to Philadelphia, where the scarcity of lodging in a city overwhelmed by the papal visit obliged them to sleep on the buses, but as Kate Morgan, one of the pilgrimage organizers said, “Pope Francis is worth it!”

One of the pilgrims, Rev. Peter McCormick, C.S.C., director of campus ministry, agreed. “The Papal Pilgrimage provided Notre Dame students with an opportunity to experience the Catholic Church as something much bigger than what we encounter on campus,” Father McCormick said. “Witnessing Pope Francis’ incredible demonstration of faith was no doubt a moment that our students will carry throughout their lives.”

Ethan Muehlstein, a senior from Kerrville, Texas, exemplified the durability of such moments. In preparation for the trip to Philadelphia, Muehlstein had joined other Notre Dame pilgrims at the Grotto on campus each evening for nine days praying a novena venerating the pope’s patron and namesake, Saint Francis of Assisi. He said that while he and others rejoiced to see and celebrate with Pope Francis, “this pilgrimage was not limited to the historic Mass in the ‘City of Brotherhood.’”

ND Students

“As a community, united in spirit,” Muehlstein said, “we had reflected on nine different topics, including simplicity, gratitude, and service. By adopting these new practices in my life, I had become even closer to Christ. Saint Francis astounded and inspired the Church by taking the Gospel literally, not in a narrow, fundamentalist sense, but by actually following all that Jesus said and did, joyfully, without limit and without a sense of self-importance. Similarly, Pope Francis embodies the Catholic Church as the Holy Father, acting on the teachings, caring for the poor, proclaiming the values, and bringing all closer to Christ.”

“Our students are the ‘Pope Francis Generation,’ and the Holy Father’s call to love, mercy, and service will echo throughout their lives,” said Rev. William M. Lies, C.S.C., vice president for mission engagement and church affairs. “We are very proud of all those who traveled to Philadelphia to pray with Pope Francis last fall. These students recognized the importance of this historic moment for our country and for the Catholic Church, and they represented Notre Dame well. Pope Francis’ spirit of generosity and his focus on the poor has really resonated with our students, which has been a blessing for all of us.”