Recently there have been many articles, blogs and news reports about the Pope’s visit to Philadelphia. The World Meetings of Families went off without a hitch and was one of the most successful events in the history of Philadelphia. The personal effect the Pontiff had on each person within the city of Philadelphia was extraordinary. But, what about the impact the Pope had on a local university? The minute it was announced that Pope Francis would be attending The World Meetings of Families in Philadelphia and staying at Saint Charles Borromeo Seminary, SJU was buzzing. Would Pope Francis visit Saint Joseph’s University? The excitement was growing as each day grew closer.
First let me tell you I am not Catholic, so this event was something that was truly different for me. I was not sure what to expect, but I did know that the excitement on campus was palpable. I soon realized it wasn’t about religion for me, there was something more; it was very exciting to witness first hand the atmosphere at SJU. It is not everyday someone of such great importance comes to our city, let alone be so close to our school. Having the Pope residing right across the street from my building was something I will not soon forget. The day Pope Francis arrived, the crowds gathered on City Avenue. Seeing so many people waiting outside to witness the Pope, who are so devout in their faith, was truly unique. I was able to experience the excitement of my fellow classmates and strangers alike as Pope Francis drove by in his car. I witnessed so many people trying to catch a glimpse of the Pontiff. Many were on the phone with their parents and friends providing blow-by-blow details of the Pope’s whereabouts and his next possible move. The excitement was infectious. I too found myself taking photos and sharing them with my family.
It was not a Catholic event, it was a human event–one that is historical. You could feel the love and see the kindness. Rumors of the Pope coming to our little University soon became a reality. Saint Joseph’s University was to be honored with a visit by Pope Francis. His visit, although brief, was to bless our new statue, “Synagoga and Ecclesia in Our Time”, which commemorates the ongoing relationship between Catholics and Jews. The statue depicts the synagogue and church as both proud crowned women, living in covenant with God side by side.
This was a weekend that I truly will never forget. As a Jewish student attending a Catholic university, I couldn’t be prouder. When I chose SJU as my university, I based my decision not only on academics but, also, on tradition. This past weekend I had the ability to experience why I chose SJU. The experience has forever changed me. Seeing a campus come together, alive with the excitement of the Pope’s visit, the smiles, the cheers and the acts of kindness I experienced over one weekend was unbelievable! It didn’t matter your faith, it was about what the Pope signified: hope, family, and religious freedom. Pope Francis definitely won the hearts of SJU and people everywhere.