SUNY Buffalo State Students go to New York City during Pope visit


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Eleven current SUNY Buffalo State undergraduate students and two graduate students travel to New York to see Pope Francis.

Chance Morrow, Reporter

What if you had the opportunity to be in the same room as one of the world’s most prestigious religious figures? Two weeks ago, a handful of SUNY Buffalo State students jumped at the chance to see Pope Francis at Madison Square Garden on Friday, Sept. 25.

Hundreds of thousands of people packed the streets to get the chance to see the Pope during his six-day, three city tour in the United States; a memorable experience for many, including Buffalo State students.

Eleven current Buffalo State students, two graduate students, and one former Buffalo State graduate cramped into a fifteen passenger van at 5 a.m. to start their seven-hour journey to New York City, in hopes of avoiding the impending city traffic.

Carmen Schaff, Buffalo State’s campus minister, was thrilled with the news that the Diocese of Buffalo had secured 200 tickets, and of those, 30 would be reserved for students at Buffalo State.

“We found out in March that the Pope was coming, and the tickets would only be available through the Diocese,” Schaff said. “We were constantly calling and e-mailing week after week to see if we would be able to see him.”

Schaff wasn’t notified that they had gotten the tickets until the beginning of September.

“We only had about two weeks to throw everything together,” Schaff said.

Securing the van to get there was the easy part, the trip there was a more challenging task.

“We left really early in the morning to avoid the traffic, and we only made a few stops on the way there, but the van was completely full, so there was a lot of sleeping,” Schaff said.

The group arrived at Madison Square Garden at 2 p.m. to join the seemingly never-ending line that wrapped around numerous blocks. They were originally told that they would get into the service at 3:30 p.m., but because of a shortage in security officials, they didn’t get in until 5:30 p.m.

Meaghan Champney, a junior anthropology major, said that the Pope had a very contagious smile.

“He was smiling and waving at everyone,” Champney said. “He was just so happy to be there.”

Champney said that the mass was like any other normal service but multiplied 100 fold, which especially proved true when it came to the singing.

“It was the biggest live chorus that you will probably ever hear in your life,” Champney said. “Even the simple prayers sounded amazing with that massive amount of people.”

Another member of the group, senior Mark Niewiemski, said that he could feel and see the joy throughout the entire venue. He even witnessed several people shed tears of joy during mass, just because of their sheer happiness to be in the same room as Pope Francis.

“It was mass, so you obviously want to be respectful,” Schaff said. “But it is also in an odd space, so people were taking pictures during mass like it was concert featuring a celebrity. It was interesting to see that many people excited to be in church.”

Although there were 20,000 attendees at mass that Friday, every person received communion. “I was not expecting that everyone there would receive communion, especially since the service was only about two hours long,” Champney said. However, “security was very strict on ensuring that everyone consumed the offering to avoid desecration, following people around until they consumed it,” she added.

Sophomore Albert Garcia, who is a New York City native, said that it was such a strange, yet enlightening thing, to see the pure joy expressed on every person’s face around him.

“This is just something that I am not used to seeing in the city; this is all because of the Pope.”


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