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Local college students pilgrimage to see Pope Francis

While the Pope’s pilgrimage brought him to the final city of his historic visit to the U.S., hundreds of students from Notre Dame and Holy Cross began a pilgrimage of their own.

Over 500 students from are traveling to Philadelphia to attend the Pope’s mass Sunday afternoon.

“It’s moving our faith from our head to our hearts,” said Sara Thoms, Theology graduate student at Notre Dame.

“We heard the announcement that Pope Francis was coming to America, we just thought this is a historic event, we’ve got to go!” said John Paul Lichon, Assistant Director of Retreats, Pilgrimages, and Spirituality at Notre Dame.

"We’ve been planning this for so long. It’s just awesome to see it all come together,” said Father Pete McCormick, Notre Dame Director of Campus Ministry.

One of the people working so hard to make the trip happen is Papal Visit Pilgrimage Student Coordinator Emily David.

“A lot of hard work has gone into planning this. We started planning in April,” said David.

David’s fellow students were eager to sign up for the experience.

“It’s a great opportunity to be with him and pray with him,” said Thoms.

Registration began for the trip in May. The 500 student cap was reached just a few weeks later.

“It gives me great hope that so many students are this excited to go to a mass,” said Lichon.

“Seeing so many people it resonates clearly with the joy that Pope Francis communicates,” said Fr. McCormick.

All that joy came at a small price.

“It was very affordable too. I only paid $25,” said Austin Cruz, Theology graduate student at Notre Dame.

“We wanted to make it available and accessible to as many students as possible. There are several offices who are supporting this financially so we made it very affordable for students to go,” said Lichon.

The students say they are incredibly excited for the experience.

“Right now I’m just filled with so much joy and gratitude,” said David .

“I’m just so excited to see Pope Francis and really just kind of sense the excitement in Philadelphia,” said Thoms.

The students will be among an estimated 1.5 million people at the Benjamin Franklin Parkway for mass Sunday afternoon.

“To be a part of that and to realize the church is much larger than the University of Notre Dame or their own individual communities that they’ve come from and that we are a part of something much larger than ourselves,” said Fr. McCormick.

Fr. McCormick hopes the students will be inspired to bring that new perspective back home to South Bend.

“Even in their communities as they begin to grow and live their lives that they might be able to have that type of effect. Maybe not on a global scale, but certainly on a scale of their own individual relationships in their own communities. It’s something really special,” said Fr. McCormick.

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