TROY — Pope Francis has spent the past week in the United States, marking the fourth time in history a pope has traveled to the United States, and Catholic school students did not miss the chance to be a part of it.
On Thursday, Pope Francis spoke to a joint session of Congress — a first for a pope — about the American dream and to encourage Congress to work toward peace and hope in the world.
St. Patrick Catholic School Principal Cyndi Cathcart said the students have been following what the pope has been doing and pray for him every morning.
To keep the spirit of the pope going all year, the school is participating in a “food for all” campaign, where St. Patrick’s is going to try to raise 3,000 cans of food. So far for September, Cathcart said the students are doing well.
“They’re right on target, so we have 150 to do each month,” she said. “That is Pope Francis’ call to end hunger, so the Archdiocese of Cincinnati came up with this food program and all the schools let them know how many cans of food they’re going to collect. They’re trying to get 10 million cans, so they’re close.”
Second-grade teacher Heather Mills said her class has been doing activities, such as making their own Pope Francis, all week to learn about him. Leading up to the pope’s speech, Mills said she did a lot of introducing, teaching her students about the pope’s life and where he came from leading up to his speech.
“I felt it was important in a Catholic school that they understood why this is so important,” she said. “This is a big moment in history because he’s the first of any pope to speak to the joint members of Congress. Even taking the religion part out of it, what he’s saying can have an effect on everyone, even non-Catholics, and how we live.”
Mills’ students listened closely to the pope and applauded when the joint houses of Congress did, even giving Pope Francis a standing ovation when he finished speaking.
Downstairs in the middle school, the seventh and eighth graders also had gathered to watch the speech.
Eighth-grader Jack White and seventh-grader Carianne Rindler said that leading up to the speech before Congress, they had watched him speak in the Rose Garden at the White House.
One quotation from the pope’s speech that stood out to them was that America is the land of dreams, which the pope hoped will continue until the end of time.
“I liked it when he talked about how in America, you can do pretty much whatever you want and pursue your dream,” Rindler said.
White said that Pope Francis talked about American history generally and the 150th anniversary of Lincoln’s assassination, as well as American leaders such as Martin Luther King Jr., and called the entire speech inspiring.
“It’s pretty cool,” White said. “This is what we’ll talk about in 60 years to our grandkids.”
Reach Allison C. Gallagher at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @Troydailynews.