Awaiting Pope Francis

Marquette University students studying at the Les Aspin Center
for Government are at the epicenter of Pope Francis’ visit to the U.S.

Marquette: Pope Francis’ visit to the United States is truly a historic moment. With it all happening so close in Washington D.C., how does it feel to be at the center of it?

Matthew Lipina is a junior from Appleton, Wisconsin

Matthew Lipina: It’s special. It is something that in everyday life as a college student we just don’t get to experience. It is really beneficial for us to be where it all happens in Washington D.C.

The pope has done so much for the Catholic Church and speaks a message of love. This city is really preparing for him to come. And, so are we. It is just all really exciting.

Marquette: What is it that you are most excited about for this historic week with Pope Francis’ visit?

Corinne Kwapis is a junior from Fairview Heights, Illinois 

Corinne Kwapis: This is a great opportunity interning on “The Hill” for the Les Aspin Center for Government, especially with the pope visiting the United States for the first time and the fact that he’s also a Jesuit pope.

The theme of his trip is atonement and mercy, and a lot of those topics are applicable toward the legislation in congress and the things I’m learning about. His visit makes it all come together.

Pope Francis honors the experiences of all people by rejecting the lavish lifestyle of previous popes. Regardless of who society says you are, Pope Francis looks beyond that. Going to Marquette, you see this immersion in the population in the city and it is astonishing. I think that with those teachings that you learn to look beyond class– you see that nobody is below you and nobody is above you.

Marquette: People often talk about the “Francis effect” when they describe how he is energizing the church. How do you think his energy will impact people?

Ryan Martin is a junior from New Lenox, Illinois

Ryan Martin — The concept of going to church in America — especially in America — has started to really decline. I think Pope Francis’ visit will reinvigorate people and get them back to church, hopefully.

I think it is really important that he connects with the people while he is here.

It is really good that he is here to re-energize the base.

Marquette: What is it about Pope Francis’ leadership traits that stick out to you and how does he relate to what you’ve experienced at Marquette?

Blake Dobrich is a senior from Dupue, Illinois

Blake Dobrich — I think the reason he is energizing the young crowd is the way he is leading the church. He’s taking on leadership in a way from which he is leading with us. He is in the jail kissing the prisoner’s feet on Christmas Eve.

For many of us, especially those at Marquette who are active in service, we experience that same thing when we are out at Thanksgiving serving the homeless or offering food to the poor. It is really energizing, especially among the Catholic faithful, to know that the leader of the Catholic Church that you belong to is doing the same things you are.

Alexander Lech is a senior from DePere, Wisconsin

Alexander Lech — He really leads from the front. For example, he is going to be going to a prison and an inner city school while in the United States. As a leader, when you ask people to do things, you should expect yourself to be able to do the exact same things. He’s not saying he is better than everybody else because he is the pope. He’s the pope and he is doing all of these things and showing people how to be a great example. I think that is what people really admire about him.

Marquette: Pope Francis has taken on a number of worldwide issues. Which ones resonate with you?

Corinne Kwapis — His care for the protection of humanity stands out. He’s intervened in some major issues such as climate change and his interaction with the Cuban embargo. He really helped those changes happen, and I think that without his intervention, peace and justice may not have been realized.

Marquette: Why do you think Pope Francis connects so well with young people and students in college?

Ryan Martin — I remember vividly the day that Pope Francis was named pope. I went to a Jesuit high school and we all had our TVs on. Once he started actually putting reforms in and getting settled into his role, it was really interesting to see how he scaled back on extravagant things. He connected with people by doing that and that is one reason why people in our generation look up to him.