In February of my sophomore year, I went on a service trip to the Romero Center in Camden, N.J. I knew a little bit about Archbishop Oscar Romero from my theology class in freshman year, but I never truly understood the message he spread to people worldwide. There is a quote on a wall of the Romero Center that reads, “So You Say You Love The Poor...Name Them.” The quote summarizes our entire Christian service program at Loyola School in Manhattan. Oscar Romero, or rather, St. Romero, fought for something in which I strongly believe—helping those in need.
I first heard of Archbishop Romero’s canonization at a school assembly, but it was as if God called me to apply for this adventure. Loyola is the first Jesuit school I have ever attended, and being here for three years has taught me what it truly means to grow in the Jesuit tradition. I felt called to this pilgrimage because I wanted to be open to growth, specifically as a Christian.
It has always been a dream of mine to travel to Italy, and taking it all in for the first time was breathtaking and unreal. After a long flight and being awake for nearly 20 hours, I stood in front of the Vatican in disbelief and said, “Wait...where are we?” It became a running joke for the entire trip.
We visited sites including St. Peter’s Square, the Pantheon, the Piazza Navona, the Church of St. Ignatius, the Trevi Fountain, the Capuchin Crypt, the Spanish Steps, the Vatican Museum, St. Paul’s Basilica, the Church of the Gesu, the rooms of St. Ignatius, the Colosseum, many ancient ruins, St. Peter’s Basilica, and finally, the Jesuit Curia. For five days, we saw more than I could imagine seeing with my parents in at least a week—and all by foot. We truly were the pilgrim people!
The fact that around 70,000 people from all over the world were gathered together for two hours was like a breath of fresh air. In a world that is constantly separated, hearing everyone sing together, seeing everyone waving at the pope and being in the presence of such togetherness was truly inspiring. After I arrived home, I spoke to Mr. Daley and he mentioned how Ms. Baber described one instant during the canonization in which everyone—70,000 people—went completely silent. There is a saying that goes, “Silence speaks louder than words,” and it is true. Despite the language barriers between the 70,000 of us, that moment of silence made me feel connected to each and every one of them. The pilgrimage to St. Oscar Romero’s canonization was truly a life changing and blessed event, and I will always remember the laughs, the gelato and the sleep deprivation we shared. But more importantly, I will remember the love we shared for one another, even those we did not know.
Allie Longworth is a junior at Loyola School.