Br. Nathan Wayne, LC, and Br. Michael Sester, LC, both met Pope Francis when he came to visit San Paolo della Croce, the parish in Corviale, one of the poor areas in Rome, where they have been helping out with Confirmation class.
Br. Nathan has been assisting in the parish for two years, while Br. Michael started this year after Br. Nathan recruited him. They helped out in the parish twice a week, once to teach catechism and again, on Sunday, to serve Mass and play with the kids a bit int the parish Oratorio.
The Pope’s visit took place on April 24, 2018. During his pastoral visit, Pope Francis took questions and said Mass, during which he gave first Communion to one of the girls. This video of a boy asking Pope Francis if his unbelieving father might be in heaven was recorded during the event and has since gone viral on social media.
In preparation for the Pope’s visit, Br. Nathan Wayne, LC, suggested that the boys from his class who would be serving the Mass should dress up in something nicer than their jeans and tattered sneakers. But some of the local adults pointed out that the kids might not have other shoes, and one of the dads admitted that his son didn’t have anything else. Br Nathan concluded, “It’s really eye-opening to realize how much I’ve been given in my life, and how much Christ is asking me to give spiritually.”
Br. Nathan was the acolyte holding the microphone during the Mass, which he considered a grace because it put him face-to-face with the Pope. He also shook the Pope’s hand – twice, as the photographers weren’t there the first time and Francis wanted to make sure he had a souvenir. Br Nathan said he saw Pope Francis smile when the pastor introduced him as a Legionary about to be ordained.
Br. Michael Sester, LC, described the logistics of their encounter: “After Mass, he [Pope Francis] came out of the sacristy, taking off his vestments for Mass. We lined-up and each one of us shook his hand. He didn’t say much – I think he was already pretty tired – but he smiled and shook everyone’s hand.”
Br. Michael described the experience as a “great grace.” He said, “In the moment, Pope Francis is a normal person – he’s isn’t imposing or scary. I was excited to meet him, and I felt very at peace and joyful in that moment. It was a really good experience.” He was impressed that the Pope shook hands with all the kids in the catechism class, which Br. Michael thinks will be an experience they’ll always remember. Pope Francis managed to bring the whole parish together both physically and spiritually.
When asked about his experience at the parish, Br. Nathan quoted pastor, Don Roberto, who cited Gaudete et Exsultate: “If we dare to go to the fringes, we will find [Christ] there; indeed, he’s already there.” Br. Nathan concluded, “Its a poor area, you see a lot of suffering and pain, but Christ is present there.”