Five local students chosen to greet Pope Francis

It’s the special meet-and-greet of a lifetime.

Out of over 30,000 children attending 86 Catholic schools in Brooklyn and Queens, five were chosen to welcome Pope Francis during his first visit to New York on Thursday, September 24.

The children and their parents were congratulated by Brooklyn Bishop Nicholas DiMarzio and Monsignor Jamie Gigantiello, director of the office of parish giving and vicar of development for the Diocese of Brooklyn and Queens, outside of Holy Name Church on Monday, September 21.

“Today, we celebrate the children greeting the Holy Father when he comes off the plane as he steps for the first time in New York,” said Gigantiello as he explained what was on the agenda for the historic day. “The children will be presenting him with a spiritual bouquet, which are prayers and acts of kindness for the intentions for him and the success of his visit and also a gift from the Diocese of Brooklyn and Queens.”

The children were chosen by the diocese, which asked principals from various schools to submit names of children that they felt would be well suited to represent the diocese as well as greet the Pope.

DiMarzio expressed his excitement for the children to be among the first to greet the pope. “He loves children. I’m so happy we can have them there to greet him with smiling faces,” DiMarzio said. “My advice would be not to be nervous. For the children, it’s a memorable life moment they’ll never forget.”

The kids discussed what the rare opportunity meant to them. “It feels exciting and joyful,” said fourth grader Brianna Wood. “He’s close to God and can make this world a better place. I’m a little nervous but excited too.”

Fifteen-year-old Christina Desanges agreed. “It’s very special. Not a lot of people get this opportunity. On the outside, I’m nervous but on the inside I’m ecstatic,” she said. “He’s the voice of the innocent and less fortunate.”

“I think I may be a little more nervous,” said Maria Heyer, proud mother first grader Maria Teresa. “But we’re bursting with joy. It’s our Holy Father coming to New York at a time where we can really use his blessing. It’s quite the experience and one that I never thought in my wildest dreams would happen. But it’s amazing.”

Gigantiello also expressed the significance of Pope Francis’s visit. “This is an exciting time. This is our fifth Holy Father to visit so it’s a great time for our diocese and it’s a time to celebrate our faith and to celebrate our Holy Father’s visit by celebrating mass with him and listening to him pray,” he said.

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