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Pope Francis at the North American College — May 2, 2015

Archbishop Jose Gomez Gives Pope Francis a Relic of Blessed Junipero Serra

During Pope Francis’ visit to the North American College in Rome on May 2nd, Archbishop Jose Gomez, Archbishop of Los Angeles, presented to the Holy Father a relic of Blessed Junipero Serra.

The first photo shows Pope Francis receiving the relic of Father Serra from Archbishop Gomez with our  seminarian, Corey Tufford, in the background holding the microphone. The second photo shows Corey meeting the Holy Father.

Below is a letter that Corey sent to his family members and friends telling them about his experience of meeting Pope Francis during the Holy Father’s visit to the North American College on May 2nd.

2 May 2015 

Dear friends and family, 

Today was an historic day for the Pontifical North American College and for the Church at large. This is the day when Pope Francis came to celebrate the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass in our college chapel in anticipation of his trip to the United States this coming September. 

The focus of the day was the wonderful Franciscan missionary, Bl. Junipero Serra, and the heroic work of evangelization which he accomplished throughout Mexico and California. Being a San Diegan, and having received the sacraments of Baptism, Confirmation and First Eucharist at my home parish, Mission San Diego de Alcalá (the first of the 21 California missions founded by Bl. Junipero), it was an especially encouraging and exciting day for me personally. 

Before the Pope’s arrival, from 8:30AM until about 11:45AM, scholars and bishops offered their insights and wisdom about the life and work of Bl. Junipero. Similarly, they spoke about why he is such a significant witness for the Church today in the 21st millennium. The speakers noted Bl. Junipero’s sympathy and generous compassion for the Native Americans he encountered and evangelized during the founding of the California missions. Archbishop José Gómez of Los Angeles called Bl. Junipero a “working class missionary”, indicating that he wasn’t one to deliver homilies or lectures that have been handed down throughout the centuries, but was one who nonetheless poured himself out in service to those whom he had come so far to encounter and present with the Gospel of Jesus Christ. 

The tenor of many of the talks hovered around the very real concern of immigration and the relationship between United States and Latin American citizens. Each of the presenters had very striking insights into these modern day topics and I will carry their words with me as I return to California for my own sharing in the mission of the Church in the Diocese of San Diego. One of the most significant realities that was underlined was how deeply indebted America is to the work of the Spanish in the promotion of the Gospel. Were it not for the work of Spanish missionaries and the Latin American faithful who have bravely born witness to Jesus Christ and his Church since the 16th century, much of America would not share in the joy of the Gospel. 

After the conferences, all present made their way to the college’s Immaculate Conception chapel and awaited the arrival of the Holy Father. I got a surprise phone call the day before asking if I’d like to serve during the liturgy as a “microphone holder” for the deacons, and I gladly said, “Oh yea!” This meant that I’d be in the sacristy before Mass and would probably get a chance to meet the Pope. So, after waiting a bit in the sacristy this morning, the pope’s car (a blue Ford hatchback) pulled through the college’s front gate. We got the bells ringing to announce his arrival and then lined up to welcome the Holy Father into the sacristy. Immediately upon his entering the sacristy, Pope Francis began to shake hands with each of us who were to serve during the liturgy. The overall sentiment was joy. He is a gentle and generous man, and I feel privileged to have had just a brief encounter with him. 

The Mass was simple and beautiful. Pope Francis preached on Bl. Junipero Serra’s “missionary zeal, his Marian devotion, and his witness of holiness”. Before the final blessing, Archbishop Gómez presented the Holy Father with a relic of Bl. Junipero Serra. I was happy to have been right there with the microphone during this exchange and got to see the Pope’s face light up as he received this beautiful gift from the archbishop. We sang the Regina Caeli standing together before an image of Our Lady of Guadalupe, and then proceeded back to the sacristy. The pope returned to his car and then drove down the long drive way that runs behind the college, waving to all of us who lined the drive. 

Quite a day! Thank you for letting me share my joy with you in this small way. Please keep our Holy Father in your prayers as he is always asking us to pray for him. 

Bl. Junipero Serra, Pray for us! 

In Jesus and Mary, 
Corey