Papal Visit Shines Light on Partnership Schools

December 21, 2015

Immaculate Conception is usually abuzz when our students’ energy fills the halls at the beginning of the school year, but this year there was extra excitement with Pope Francis’ visit to New York City. The fact that he was visiting a Partnership School - Our Lady Queen of Angels (OLQA) in East Harlem – only added to the thrill. When all was said and done, Pope Francis’ time at OLQA on September 25th was one of the most unique, upbeat moments of his trip to the United States.

As the Partnership begins the third year managing six schools, including Immaculate Conception, we cannot help feel that the visit was recognition of the good work our organization has under taken. Dr. Timothy McNiff, the Archdiocesan Superintendent, acknowledged that by choosing a Partnership School, he knew the Pope would appreciate both with the warmth and the professionalism exhibited by everyone in the building.

Before the visit, six OLQA students were selected to meet the pope, along with 18 other students from three nearby Catholic schools. They became stars in their own right, doing interviews for organizations like the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, and The Economist.

On September 25th, two hundred students from Catholic schools in the city lined the sidewalk outside of OLQA. The joy and anticipation was palpable as they sang and prayed before the pope’s arrival. When the Holy Father pulled up to the school, he was delighted to see the children. He walked down the block, enthusiastically greeting almost every student, and even posing for some photos. Pope Francis then entered the school building to meet with OLQA Principal Joanne Walsh, her six students, and the other representatives inside the specially prepared classroom. The students were unbelievably poised, and natural, making Pope Francis laugh and smile as he walked around the room. One of the highlights was an incredibly human moment when two students took the pope’s hand and helped him navigate the classroom Smart Board.

We deeply appreciate the light the Holy Father shone on Our Lady Queen of Angels, and by association Immaculate Conception as a sister school within the Partnership network.  His focus on urban Catholic education is both a validation and an inspiration – how grateful we are for both!