Academy of the Holy Names student Anna Szesnat enjoys the glorious ambience of St. Peter’s Square as it is prepared for Easter Sunday Mass. Szesnat and 27 of her fellow classmates’ trip to Italy culminated in watching Pope Francis celebrate the Mass and deliver his Easter message and blessing "urbi et orbi" (to the city and the world) from the central balcony of St. Peter's Basilica on April 17. (Photo provided)
Academy of the Holy Names student Anna Szesnat enjoys the glorious ambience of St. Peter’s Square as it is prepared for Easter Sunday Mass. Szesnat and 27 of her fellow classmates’ trip to Italy culminated in watching Pope Francis celebrate the Mass and deliver his Easter message and blessing "urbi et orbi" (to the city and the world) from the central balcony of St. Peter's Basilica on April 17. (Photo provided)

My classmates from Academy of the Holy Names and I are grateful to Bishop Edward Scharfenberger who arranged tickets for us to attend the Easter Mass celebrated by Pope Francis (on April 17). As we woke up bright and early in Rome on Easter Sunday, I had no idea what to expect. Would it feel any different than any other Mass that I have attended? Would I understand what was going on? These questions swirled through my head as we were walking to our seats in front of St. Peter’s Basilica.

When we entered the seating area, we were provided booklets which translated the Mass into many languages so that we could follow along. The crowd was boisterous and dense. We could feel the religious fervor around us. Those around me spoke French, Chinese, Italian and Spanish. It was so powerful to see all these joyful people from such diverse backgrounds connected by our faith, worship and our love of God. Seeing and hearing all those who made the journey from across the world to hear and see Pope Francis reinforced just how fortunate I was to have experienced this Mass.


As the choir’s angelic voices rang out through the square and Pope Francis appeared, I felt a shift in the air. Everything seemed so surreal, and it was then I knew it would be a Mass that I would never forget. As the pope started to speak and the Mass began, it was the closest I have ever felt to God. I could actually feel His presence around me and Spirit within me. Hearing the Mass spoken in so many different languages further emphasized the fact that Catholicism is a universal religion and that we truly are all connected as brothers and sisters in our faith.

After the Mass, as the pope left in his Popemobile, people around me were chanting in different languages “The Pope! The Pope!” as Pope Francis waved and smiled at the crowd. It was as if he was a rock star, which in the Catholic world, he is the ultimate rock star.

Anna Szesnat is a senior at Academy of the Holy Names. She and 27 other students traveled to Rome, Florence and Venice from April 15-22, accompanied by chaperones from Holy Names. Szesnat is a member of Holy Names’ Youth Ministry and Liturgical Choir and will attend Trinity College in the fall.