By ANDREW PETTERSON
Pope Francis wrapped up a week-long visit to the United States on Sunday, Sept. 27. During his time in the U.S., Pope Francis met with President Barack Obama at the White House, delivered a speech to the Senate and House of Representatives, held a multi-religious service at the 9/11 Memorial and Museum in New York, visited the Curran-Fromhold Correction Facility in Philadelphia, and led numerous Mass services and prayer vigils across the nation.
Since his inauguration, Pope Francis has been celebrated by many as “the people’s Pope” for the kindness and compassion he has demonstrated towards the poor and marginalized. He has repeatedly spoken out against what he calls “savage capitalism,” in reference to the free market economic system of the United States, that is, in his opinion, dominated by greed that exploits the common man and gives rise to astronomical income inequality.
Pope Francis also urged politicians worldwide to provide job opportunities, affordable healthcare and education to all citizens.
Lastly, Pope Francis showed an unprecedented, progressive approach toward non- believers and members of the lesbian, gay, transgender and bisexual community.
In the weeks surrounding the Pope’s visit to the U.S., the national media spotlight focused much of its coverage on the Catholic faith.
To gain a better understanding of the spiritual significance of the Pope’s visit, and Catholicism in general, two members of the Catholic Campus Ministry, vice-president, Jessica Cottrill, former president, Katie Branum and Father Chris Vaccaro, spoke about their experience with Catholic Campus Ministry and Catholicism within UMW.
There has been a strong Catholic presence among the student body since UMW opened its doors in 1908. The historic St. Mary of the Immaculate Conception Roman Catholic Church, on the corner of William Street and Stafford Avenue, is in close proximity to the UMW campus.
Though significantly smaller in size, the Catholic Campus Ministry, located at 1614 College Ave., across the street from Seacobeck dining hall, serves an unequivocally important role as the church center for all Catholic students at UMW.
In accordance with the religious practices of charity and togetherness, it is the goal of the Catholic Campus Ministry to enable students to give back to their parish community, as well as the campus community.
The all-night vigil held earlier this semester on Ball Circle was a prime example of the ministry’s work to establish a sense of community. And of course, in the spirit of strengthening spiritual bonds within the UMW community, the Catholic Campus Ministry sponsored a trip to see Pope Francis hold public Mass in Philadelphia.
Former president of the CCM, senior Katie Branum, who went to Philadelphia, recounted seeing the Holy Father.
“[Pope Francis is] a physical example of what we believe, why we’re practicing it, and how we’re going to practice it,” Branum said. According the Branum, the spiritual experience with the Pope, or as he’s known as the Holy Father, was an important one to her, especially for her faith.
“[It was] a great gift,” Branum said, going on to elaborate that Pope Francis’ importance is not rooted in his status as a celebrity or a political figure, but rather in his role as a spiritual leader and the moral guidance that he offers.
The Catholic Campus Ministry is open to Catholics and non-Catholics alike. Their next major event is the inter-faith fall festival on Oct. 21 at Ball Circle, from 3 to 5 p.m.
The campus ministry plans to carry on the spirit of good-will, faith and unity that he and the Catholic faith work to emulate.