Last spring, when word first leaked out that Pope Francis might be coming to America in September 2015, students at Detroit’s Cristo Rey High School launched a campaign to invite the pontiff to Detroit.
Not content to include only their own invitations, Cristo Rey students asked students at three Detroit elementary schools–Gesu, Holy Trinity and Holy Redeemer–to write letters, as well. They started a Facebook page, “Let’s Bring Pope Francis to Detroit in 2015,” which is being followed by nearly 1,400 people.
At the urging of the Cristo Rey students, Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan also wrote a letter of invitation to Pope Francis. And last week, Detroit Archbishop Allen Vigneron sent Mayor Duggan’s invitation to the Holy Father along with his own personal invitation.
On Tuesday, December 2, Vatican spokesman Fr. Thomas Rosica, president of Assumption College in nearby Windsor, Ontario and a member of the Basilian order, visited the Basilian-run Catholic school. There, he picked up a big box of letters handwritten by students from Cristo Rey and the other Detroit Catholic schools. Father Rosica will meet with Pope Francis in mid-December, and promised to deliver the letters into the Pope’s hands.
The Detroit Free Press reported:
Cristo Rey High School, housed in the former Holy Redeemer High School in southwest Detroit, has a unique curriculum. Many of its 288 students come from low-income or impoverished homes. Each student participates in a work-study program, in which they are paired with local employers and spend one school day at work. Their wages help underwrite tuition, while the students gain real-life work experience in settings ranging from hospitals to manufacturers. Students also have a longer school day and school year to allow for the off-site work.
The school, said Rosica, “it’s everything Pope Francis stands for and loves.”
High school junior Eduardo Garduno, 16, told Father Rosica how much he appreciates Pope Francis. “He does just what Jesus would do. He’s like Jesus in 2014,” said Garduno.
According to Patricia Montemurri of the Detroit Free Press, Father Rosica called that “a wonderful way” to describe Pope Francis’ outreach. He instructed the student to write another letter to Pope Francis, using that phrasing, and to send Father Rosica a PDF copy of the letter via e-mail. “Who knows?” Father Rosica said afterward, when asked about the chances of securing a papal visit. “There are no long shots with this pope.”