September 11, 2015 — Hundreds of students from more than 40 Jesuit high schools in the U.S., Canada and Puerto Rico will have the trip of a lifetime when they head to Philadelphia to see Pope Francis later this month. It’s all possible thanks to a pilgrimage being hosted by St. Joseph’s Preparatory School and their neighbors, the Jesuit-run Gesu School, located less than two miles from the Benjamin Franklin Parkway, where the pope will celebrate the concluding Mass of the World Meeting of Families on September 27.
Philadelphia native Adam Rosinski, SJ, a Jesuit in formation who is starting his second year at the Prep as a teacher and campus minister, along with two student leaders, Liam Scott ’17 and John Barbera ’17, are part of the team organizing the event. When the pope first announced he’d be visiting Philadelphia for the World Meeting of Families, they asked themselves how the Prep could respond.
“After a lot of prayer and conversation we ended up with the idea that we’re being invited to share this experience with our larger Ignatian and Jesuit family,” explains Rosinski. “We invited a wide range of Jesuit high schools to send pilgrims to Philadelphia to share this experience.”
From left, Adam Rosinski, SJ with John Barbera ’17, Pope Francis, and Liam Scott ’17 of St. Joseph’s Prep in Philadelphia
Over 300 students from 42 Jesuit high schools will travel to St. Joseph’s Prep to participate in “2Philly4Francis: Ignatian Pilgrims on the Journey” from Sept. 24-28. The students will camp out in classrooms at the Prep and gather for liturgies, listen to speakers and have breakout sessions on topics close to the pope’s heart, including joy, mercy and encounter.
The organizers hope the pilgrimage achieves three goals: that each student has an encounter with Jesus; that each comes to better know the Catholic and Jesuit identity that they share; and that the students take the experience home and share it with their friends and family who couldn’t make it to Philadelphia.
It will also be a chance for Jesuit high school students from a wide variety of places to get to know one another. “From a teenager’s perspective it’s going to be so cool to meet other kids who are geographically different from us but are really similar to us in other ways,” says Scott. “There’s going to be a lot of room for getting to know friends and making connections with students all over the country.”
Jesuit College Preparatory School of Dallas student Jose Rivera ’16 is one of the pilgrims. He, like Scott, says, “The most exciting thing will be getting to meet kids from other Jesuit schools around the country to see how their educations and spiritualties relate to ours.” He also jokes that the “least exciting thing will probably be sleeping on the floor.”
Pilgrims from Cristo Rey Jesuit College Preparatory of Houston.
And of course, they will get to see Pope Francis. As Rosinski points out, they had no trouble recruiting for the event. “When I sent out the initial email to invite people — and I’m not exaggerating — four minutes later RSVPs starting coming in. The interest is huge!”The Prep’s location, at just one and a half miles from the Benjamin Franklin Parkway, is “what makes this event possible,” Rosinski says. While much of the city will be on lockdown, the pilgrims at St. Joseph’s Prep can walk to public papal events. The pilgrims will have the opportunity to attend Pope Francis' speech on immigration on September 26 at Independence Hall, where he'll speak at the lectern used by Abraham Lincoln to give the Gettysburg Address. They'll then walk to the Festival of Families on the Benjamin Franklin Parkway. On Sunday, they'll walk from the Prep to the papal Mass on the parkway that concludes the World Meeting of Families, which is expected to draw more than one million people.
The pilgrims will process from the Prep to the Benjamin Franklin Parkway waving their schools’ flags and carrying a Jesuit banner. “I’m excited for people to see several hundred teenagers processing to the parkway in witness to their Catholic faith and Jesuit identity to go and celebrate with the church and pope,” says Rosinski.
The delegation from Puerto Rico is ready to go.
And on the possibility of the pope visiting the Prep? He’s already received an invitation from an alumnus, as well as from current students via video. “We can’t rule it out,” says Rosinski. “The odds of him visiting our campus are pretty low, but there are odds. So we’re going to cross our fingers and maybe the Holy Spirit will work a little magic.”