Notre Dame, Saint Mary’s, Holy Cross students to attend papal visit in Philadelphia

This week and next, Pope Francis makes his first visit to the United States as pope, arriving in time for the Eighth World Meeting of Families in Philadelphia, and Notre Dame students will have the chance to join him.

Hosted by the Office of the Vice President for Mission Engagement, Center for Ethics and Culture, and Institute for Church Life, and led by the Office of Campus Ministry, the trip to Philadelphia is set for September 26-28.  It will include over 500 students, faculty, and staff from the Notre Dame, Saint Mary’s, and Holy Cross communities.

Father Pete McCormick, CSC, Director of Campus Ministry, spoke with the Rover about the importance of the trip and the role of the World Meeting of Families more broadly.   

“The Papal Pilgrimage provides members of the Notre Dame community with an opportunity to experience the Catholic Church as something much bigger than what we encounter on campus,” Fr. McCormick said.  “Gathering to pray with over 1.5 million people from all around the world will be something that all of us will remember as we carry the faith back to our daily lives.”

Father McCormick also detailed the particular importance of the World Meeting of Families for the Church and the modern world.

“The family continues to be the first place where faith is most tangibly expressed.  Fathers and mothers demonstrate to their children what it means to be a person of faith through daily expressions of charity, forgiveness, and love,” Fr. McCormick continued.  “The World Meeting of Families serves as an excellent reminder of the importance of family life and the role it plays in teaching one another about who God is and how we give God glory throughout our lives.”  

Ryan Madison, Associate Director of the Center for Ethics and Culture and a professor of ethics in the philosophy department, also weighed in on the papal visit, highlighting the special opportunity the Church has with the World Meeting of Families to help promote a culture of life in the United States.  According to Madison, a healthy marriage culture is central to this goal.  

“The Holy Father’s great concern for the youth, which is constantly evident in his speeches, explains his desire to encourage the renewal of an authentic marriage culture.  Pope Francis offers an alternative vision to the ‘revolution in customs and morals’ that he sees in our culture by proclaiming that authentic freedom and the common good are rooted in the Church’s understanding of marriage,” he said.

Madison continued, “As the Pope made clear, he is coming to the U.S. to participate in the Eighth World Meeting of Families and to proclaim those truths about the intrinsic good of authentic family life and the great need for us in the United States to work towards building up a true marriage culture.  The Center for Ethics and Culture is proud to be sending students to Philadelphia to participate in the Eighth World Meeting of Families and see Pope Francis.”  

Madison also cited Pope Francis’ remarks at the International Colloquium on the Complementarity of Man and Woman, sponsored by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith in 2014, as a key to understanding the occasion of the Holy Father’s visit to the U.S.  In fact, it was at this very colloquium that the pope confirmed he would be present in Philadelphia for the World Meeting of Families.

“The purpose and timing of the pope’s visit cannot be understood except in the context of his remarks at this colloquium,” said Madison.  “As the Holy Father told us then, ‘Marriage and the family are in crisis today. We now live in a culture of the temporary, in which more and more people reject marriage as a public obligation.’”

The pope’s comments, available in full at the Vatican website, go on to diagnose many of the social and spiritual ills that plague the world today, ills that the World Meeting of Families hopes to heal.  

“This revolution of customs and morals has often waved ‘the flag of freedom,’ but it has, in reality, brought spiritual and material devastation to countless human beings, especially the poorest and most vulnerable,” his comments read.  “It is ever more evident that the decline of the culture of marriage is associated with increased poverty and a host of other social ills that disproportionately affect women, children and the elderly. It is always they who suffer the most in this crisis.”

Despite these realities, the Holy Father remains optimistic that the Church can be a healing presence in the world through the witness of the family, and the Notre Dame community will participate in this effort through its presence, prayer, and celebration of the sacraments at the World Meeting of Families.

Michael Infantine is a senior PLS major and Theology minor.  He hopes to one day have confidence in his post-graduation plans and the direction of the rest of his life.  He can be reached at