More than 200 students at Lourdes Academy, A Notre Dame ACE Academy, watched live as Pope Francis gave his historic address to a joint meeting of Congress.
Lourdes Academy administration felt the speech had the opportunity to provide important civic, history and religious lessons for the students and an opportunity for them to watch history in the making. They arranged time during the school day for the entire student body to watch the pope’s remarks live.
“Our Catholic faith is on a national stage during this important papal visit,” said Lourdes Academy Principal Dr. Sean O’Dell. “It is important for our students to understand the significance of his visit to the United States and his remarks to Congress.”
The pope made an exceptional effort to address Congress and the American people in English yet it was challenging at times to fully understand the message. At the end of the speech during the principal’s discussion with the students, it became clear that the students not only understood the pope’s remarks, but recalled them specifically, naming the topics he addressed in the speech such as the value of human life, capital punishment, poverty, immigration, climate change and much more.
The impact of the pope’s remarks, specifically on abortion and the death penalty, made an impression on one student.
“I really enjoyed the pope’s statement on the respect for human life,” said Makenzie Bently, eighth grade Lourdes Academy student. “It is an important part of what we believe and I’m glad to hear him share it with leaders. It’s important for young Catholics to hear the pope’s messages too.”
There has been a lively public discussion about how lawmakers and political candidates would react to the pope’s messages to Congress. But the student perspective has not been widely heard.
“I think many people underestimate the ability of students to understand these topics,” said Dr. O’Dell. “Many of these issues are not foreign to young people. They can understand the importance of protecting our planet from dangerous climate changes, they can comprehend poverty that occurs around them in their own communities, and they can understand the plight of immigrants as some in their communities and possibly within their own families struggle with these issues.”
“The pope’s visit to the U.S. and his message is something these students will remember for the rest of their lives,” said Dr. O’Dell.