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First encounters

First encounters

Seeing Pope Francis during his visit to the United States taught Dan Barrett, a junior in the Diederich College of Communication, that building faith requires taking chances. He wrote about the experience for Marquette Magazine.

by Dan Barrett

College is busy. Students balance what sometimes seems like crippling amounts of schoolwork, friends, sleep, activities and service. For me it’s easy for faith to lose its place of priority. So when I found out that I would be going to Philadelphia to write about and visually document Pope Francis’ visit at the World Meeting of Families, I was slightly taken aback. What schoolwork would I miss? Am I a good enough Catholic? Why me?

Aaron Tyler McCoy, a graduate student and one of my fellow travelers, and I were unsure of most things. We didn’t know exactly where we would be staying or what we would be doing. We weren’t even sure we would get a glimpse of the pope. We were supposed to celebrate the beauty of the family with people we had never met in a city we had never been to.

But Pope Francis is special; he has a way of bringing people together.

We were told that when we arrived in Philly we should be prepared for the chaos of millions of visitors. “Everything will shut down,” we were warned. But what might have created havoc just took people out of their routines. Everything was quiet in anticipation. It was a time to focus. What did we do when we stopped moving? We spent time with others, we reflected and, as Pope Francis invited us to do, we prayed.

It was a special few days because the people we encountered treated us like family. We were more than Marquette students “visiting” Philly; we came together as Jesuit educated, as Catholics and families, and together we made a pilgrimage of faith.

We participated in a small part of the greater journey Pope Francis made in the United States. I realized that growing my faith, especially while I’m in college, requires taking chances, going outside of my comfort zone and asking questions. I found that in our confusion we were able to ask questions, in our discomfort we found family and in our journey we were guided by our faith.  — DB

See how communication student Dan Barrett documented his experience at

In addition to students Dan Barrett and Aaron Tyler McCoy, representatives from campus who witnessed Pope Francis’ first U.S. visit included President Michael R. Lovell and students and staff from the Marquette Center for Peacemaking and Les Aspin Center for Government in Washington, D.C.

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