Adjunct professor Annie Delgado, JD, had the opportunity of a lifetime when Pope Francis visited the United States last week. Delgado, a teaching credential and master of arts graduate who also teaches criminal justice courses at the Brandman Modesto campus, is a graduate of the Columbus School of Law at Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C., where the pontiff celebrated a special Mass at the Basilica of the Immaculate Conception on Sept. 23. Her alma mater had 500 tickets available and held a special lottery for alumni. She entered online and was thrilled to learn she was the lucky winner of one ticket.
Delgado describes the trip as a bit of whirlwind, flying to D.C. from Fresno and only on the ground in the nation’s capital for only about 14 hours. “I wish I could’ve taken my family but I only received one ticket. It was absolutely incredible and intense” she said.
Security for the Papal visit was unprecedented. Delgado waited in line with other university alumni for about two hours and was able to be close when he arrived in the “Popemobile.” Attending the Mass was a once-in-a-lifetime event that was deeply personal for the California native. The Mass celebrated by Pope Francis is historic for many reasons, according to Catholic scholars. It was the first public Mass celebrated by any Pope in the United States, the first time in this country that the congregation for a papal Mass has gathered on a university campus, and the first canonization to take place in the United States. Pope Francis canonized Fr. Junípero Serra, a Franciscan friar and missionary in the 1700s who founded the first Spanish Mission in Baja and nine others across what is now the state of California. Canonization is when the Pope decrees a person a new saint, upon which declaration the person is included in the canon, or list, of recognized saints.
Pope Francis spoke highly of St. Junípero, calling him “the embodiment of a church which goes forth.” He said people should follow in his example by following the new saint’s motto in life: Siempre Adelante (Keep moving forward).
The canonization of St. Junípero has special meaning for Delgado. She was married at Mission San Carlos Borromeo del Río Carmelo, also known as the Carmel Mission in Carmel by the Sea, California, where St. Juníper is entombed in a special shrine. In addition to her wedding nuptials, both of her children were baptized there.
“That certainly made this Mass even more special for me and brought it all together,” she said.
Delgado says Pope Francis has renewed the Catholic faith for many. “He’s given me and others a lot of hope; he’s more connected to the people and the challenges that we face,” she said. “There’s something about him that’s authentic. He’s amazing.”