Second year students in Franciscan University’s Center for Leadership program traveled to Washington, D.C., during All Saints break to learn about America’s founding principles and the role of Christianity in the nation today.
There were 30 sophomores and 4 juniors on the trip. The group toured and attended Friday Mass at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Assumption in Baltimore. Students were able to meet Archbishop William Lori, who spoke on religious freedom as well as on Pope Francis’ recent visit to the United States.
“Politics should be a noble vocation,” said Lori, who also gave the students advice on how to combat the attack on religious freedom.
He encouraged students to have a platform of virtue and holiness and not to participate in partisan politics.
They were also able to attend Sunday Mass at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception at Catholic University of America. Students explored and prayed in the various chapels dedicated to the Blessed Mother at the Basilica and some went to confession.
On Saturday, they attended Mass at the St. John Paul II National Shrine, which was complete with mosaics of the Luminous Mysteries and a relic of St. John Paul II’s blood. The shrine also had a large exhibit chronicling Pope John Paul’s life and papacy.
At the United States Capitol building, students were given a visitors’ tour, seeing the historical old Supreme Court Chamber and the crypt beneath the building, which supported the large capital dome, currently under repair.
They were invited to attend an alumni reception where they met and connected with many Franciscan graduates living in the D.C. area and heard a speech on the difficulties of religious freedom in the Middle East.
The group also attended a talk by Matthew Spalding, Ph.D., director of American Studies at the Heritage Foundation and author of “We Still Hold These Truths,” a book that students in the Center for Leadership read during their second year of the program.
Spalding said that prudence is absolutely necessary when trying to be a good citizen. He said that one has to know when to act and not to act in practical circumstances.
Before the students left campus on Friday, they attended two seminars on Catholic Social Teaching given by Kevin Schmiesing, Ph.D., a research fellow at the Acton Institute and brother of Franciscan Student Life Director David Schmiesing.
Out of all the activities of the weekend, many students said they felt a sense of patriotism and appreciation for liberty.
Sophomore Kailey Fischer described the trip saying, “I was really reminded of what it meant to be American. We take for granted the gift that is freedom, but we have overcome so many hardships.”
In addition to gaining historical knowledge, the trip also served as a religious pilgrimage of sorts that encouraged students to appreciate the role of Christianity in America.
Fisher further spoke on the role of Christians in politics and the secular world saying, “It is our duty as Catholic citizens to fight to continue moving this nation in a positive direction.”
The trip to Washington, D.C., is an annual fall event for the Center for Leadership.