Pope Visits PNAC!
On Saturday, May 2nd, 2015, the Pontifical North American College was privileged to host a day of reflection on the life and holiness of Bl. Junipero Serra which culminated in a visit to the College by His Holiness Pope Francis. The day of reflection on Bl. Serra, an 18th-century Franciscan missionary to the New World, anticipated the Pope’s upcoming visit to the United States in September 2015, during which the Pope will canonize Bl. Junipero Serra a Saint at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington, D.C. The day of reflection served to promote Bl. Serra’s life, mission, and saintly testimony and to encourage devotion to him. It was a historic day for the Pontifical North American College and for the Church as a whole.
The day of reflection began with a series of conferences on Bl. Junipero Serra and the heroic work of evangelization which he accomplished throughout present-day Mexico and California. Most Rev. Joseph E. Kurtz, President of the USCCB, acted as master of ceremonies, and scholars and bishops offered their insights and research into the life and work of Bl. Serra. Conferences were given (in order) by R.P. Vincenzo Criscuolo, OFM Cap., General Relator of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints; Most Rev. José Gómez, Archbishop of Los Angeles, CA; Prof. Guzmán Carriquiry, Secretary in charge of the Vice-Presidency of the Pontifical Commission for Latin America; and Mr. Carl Anderson, Supreme Knight of the Knights of Columbus.
The speakers noted that Bl. Junipero Serra is a significant witness for the Church today in the 21st millennium. They spoke of Bl. Serra’s sympathy and generous compassion for the Native Americans he encountered and evangelized during the founding of the 21 California missions. Archbishop Gómez called Bl. Junipero a “working-class missionary,” indicating that he was not one to deliver homilies or lectures that have been handed down throughout the centuries, but was one who nonetheless poured himself out in practical service for those whom he had come so far to encounter and present with the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
Following the morning’s conferences, the Holy Father, Pope Francis, arrived at the College for the celebration of the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass in the College’s Immaculate Conception chapel. As the Pope drove onto the College grounds, the chapel’s bells were rung to announce his arrival. Upon entering the seminary building, Pope Francis was greeted by a number of seminarians from the College and priests from the Casa Santa Maria.
During the Mass, the Holy Father was joined by a number of concelebrating Cardinals and Bishops. Concelebrating Cardinals included Their Eminences: James Harvey, Bernard Law, William Levada, Javier Lozano Barragán, Edwin O’Brien, Marc Ouellet, James Stafford, and Donald Wuerl. Concelebrating Bishops included Their Excellencies: Manuel Aurelio Cruz, José Gómez, Joseph E. Kurtz, John J. Myers, Patrón Wong, Marcelo Sánchez Sorondo, and Javier Salinas Viñals. At the homily, the Holy Father offered a few words on Bl. Junipero Serra’s “missionary zeal, his Marian devotion, and his witness of holiness.”
Before the final blessing, Archbishop José Gómez presented the Holy Father with a relic of Bl. Junipero Serra, which he received with a big smile. After the final blessing, the Holy Father spent some time praying before the College’s image of Our Lady of Guadalupe, and all sang the Regina Coeli.
Due to a tight schedule, the Holy Father was unable to remain at the college for the pranzone banquet that followed the Mass. Shortly after the Mass, the students, faculty, and guests of the College lined up along the College’s Viale dei Pini driveway to salute the Holy Father as he left the campus.
It was truly a historic day for the Pontifical North American College! Bl. Junipero Serra, Pray for us!
To see a collection of photos from this event, please click here.