NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — Twelve lucky high school students selected to meet Pope Francis during his visit to New York City this month have been introduced.
They’re being called the education ambassadors to the pope.
The Catholic high school seniors in the New York Archdiocese will greet the pope when he stops by Our Lady Queen of Angels School in East Harlem on Sept. 25.
Daniel Afrifa, who will represent Cardinal Hayes High School in the Bronx, said the pope is an inspiration in everyday life.
“He’s just a revolutionary. He’s a breath of fresh air in the Catholic Church,” the 17-year-old said. “To have a pope who is more in tune with how society is moving, how the culture is changing, it’s very inspiring to see that an institution as old as the Catholic Church can still move with the times.”
Afrifa sees the pope as a unifier.
“He has a Twitter account, for God’s sake; he knows that in order for a message to even be considered, it has to be delivered,” Afrifa said. “He’s appropriating these social media websites to actually convey his message to believers, nonbelievers, adults, teenagers, people who are saying for the first time in a long time that it’s cool to be religious, it’s cool to care about God.”
The principals from the 12 high schools in the Archdiocese hand-picked a representative from their school based on academic and spiritual excellence, CBS2’s Hazal Sanchez reported.
Seventeen-year-old Kara Fragola from Maria Regina High School in Hartsdale said her reaction to being chosen was, “Is it real? Is this actually happening?”
“Meeting him is like meeting the disciple of Jesus,” said Tiffany Le from Cardinal Spellman High School in the Bronx. “So it’s like, wow, I’m one step closer to Jesus.”
“I was just in awe,” said Richard Portas from Monsignor Farrell High School on Staten Island. “I couldn’t believe it. I had chills. It was like my head was spinning.”
Portas’ dad, Richard Sr., said he couldn’t be more proud of his son’s honorable opportunity.
“I thought of ‘Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory,’ and he had gotten the golden ticket,” he said.
The students will be lined up in a hallway inside Our Lady Queen of Angels and will only have a few minutes to see and possibly speak with the pope.
Some students have already planned what they want to say.
“My father’s actually diagnosed with cancer, terminal cancer a couple months ago,” Fragola said. “And if I could, I would like to ask the pope if he could just maybe say a prayer for my father. It would just mean the world to me.”
Afrifa, who is the president of the National Honor Society at his school, said he’s brushing up on his Spanish ahead of the pope’s visit.
“Hopefully by the time I meet him I have a few Spanish phrases down pat,” he said.
Pope Francis will arrive at Kennedy Airport from Washington, D.C. on Sept. 24 and attend evening prayer at St. Patrick’s Cathedral. The next day, he will address the United Nations General Assembly, host an interfaith service at the National September 11 Memorial & Museum, visit the school, take a motorcade through Central Park and celebrate Mass at Madison Square Garden.
He will depart for Philadelphia on the morning of Sept. 26.
To see a complete schedule of the pope’s upcoming visit, click here.
NJ TRANSIT Readies For Commuter Crush
The pope may not have scheduled events in New Jersey, but commuters will definitely be feeling the effects of his visit.
With that in mind, NJ TRANSIT Executive DIrector Ronnie Hakim said her agency will be ready.
“We’re going to flood our major terminal areas with ambassadors in order to support our customer service needs,” Hakim told WCBS 880’s Kelly Waldron.
NJ TRANSIT is also working with Amtrak, PATH and New York Waterway to handle the numbers. She also recommends visitors consider off-peak travel.
For more information on street closures and mass transit changes related to the papal visit, click here.