Lancaster students see Pope live via Internetby Patrick Buechi, Staff Reporter, Western New York Catholic
Students at St. Mary's High School couldn't see the pope in Washington, so they did he next best thing. They used the Internet to tune in and view his visit to the U.S. from their classroom in Lancaster.
During the Sept. 22-27 visit, Pope Francis met with politicians in Washington, D.C., celebrated Mass in New York City, and spoke to the thousands who gathered at the World Meeting of families in Philadelphia. During the religion classes at St. Mary's, students watched live-streams of the pope's address to President Barack Obama and read of his concerns for the environment, immigration and the family in transcripts of the pope's speech to Congress. They also saw the spectacle of Pope Francis being the role model for humility.
"We saw when he spoke to the president and we read his speech to congress. We saw him going through the streets kissing children and babies," said John Connolly, 16. "He loves everyone. He has this general love for every person, no matter what they've done or their religion."
"When we was being driven around he was so humble," added Erin Hufford, 16. "It was so awesome to see that. No matter who it was, or if they were mentally challenged or disabled, he made sure they would stop and he could see them and give them his blessing, kiss them on their foreheads."
Pope Francis, who first sat on the throne of Peter on March 13, 2013, has shown himself to be a pope of the people, who forgoes the shiny trappings common of a high-ranking officials for the simple life of a Jesuit priest.
The pope's visit came while the students of St. Mary's were in the middle of a lesson on The Last Judgment, as told in the Gospel of Matthew.
"They were asking how (Pope Francis) was doing things for other people and how that related to God, but since he was helping members of God's family, he was helping God at the same time. So, it was like how the pope didn't eat lunch with the president, he ate lunch with the homeless instead," explained Charles Bristol, 16.
During his address on the south lawn of the White House, Pope Francis commended President Obama on his effort to reduce air pollution, which drew the attention of Gabby Mauro, 17.
"To me, that's important because that's something that deals with our society," she said. "This might not relate to me specifically, but he talked about immigration and how to the president, that is something that is a priority, and he needs to work on that as well. I think that is interesting because he is talking about issues that are actually occurring now."
SmartBoards and Internet learning are nothing new to St. Mary's, but this is the first time the students learned through live-streaming. Cindy Powers, religion teacher, considers the introduction of this new tool a success.
"We wouldn't have had that opportunity to present live-streaming to the students a few years ago," she said. "I think that was an opportunity that was so valuable for them to see. One of the girls summed it up so perfectly. In the middle of watching him getting out and talking to the people, with the poor, with the disabled, she got up and said, 'Oh my gosh. It's like watching Jesus.' That hit home with me. That was my goal. I wanted them to see how he brings Christ into our lives."
The students enjoyed being a part of the excitement and festivities of Washington, even if it was from a seat in the classroom.
"I think it was really cool that we got to watch it and read it, because any other school probably didn't get the chance to see it," said Hufford. "It was cool that he was actually here and how he felt about the United States and his opinion on everything that we were doing. It was really cool to hear what he had to say about it."
"It was interesting because I think he cares a lot about our generation particularly," added Mauro. "I think it's very interesting to hear him talk about things we actually care about as teenagers. He's easy to relate to. He gets it, I think."