Pope Blesses Barton College Class
Posted January 25, 1999 6:00 a.m. EST
WILSON — Hundreds of thousands of people are inSt. Louishoping to catch a glance of Pope John Paul II during his visit to the city. Many miles away, college students in Wilson remember their recent meeting with the Pope.
The Italian religion and culture class atBarton Collegemet the Pope last week while touring Rome. The class received a hand-delivered invitation to theVatican.
"You see Pope John Paul standing there, a frail old man with a little cap on his head just standing there," Barton student Silvia Baillie said. "And you see one of our world rulers towering above him, but yet, that world ruler is smaller."
It was a moving trip for every student, especially for John DeRosa, one of the few Roman Catholics at the Protestant campus. DeRosa held on to a pewter cross as the Pope called the school's name and offered a blessing.
"I'll never take it off again knowing that it's blessed, personally blessed by the Pope," DeRosa said. "You could just feel it. That's all I can say. You could feel his blessing."
Because it's difficult to confirm an audience with the Pope, the possibility was kept a secret from the students until the night before.
"We did not want them to anticipate it, and then have to tell them 'No, we're not going to be able to do it,'" Barton professor Coleman Markham said. "We wanted to wait until we had the official invitation from the Vatican, which was waiting for us at the hotel when we arrived in Rome."
They may never be able to see John Paul in person again, but when his image is broadcast around the world from St. Louis, they will feel a closeness to him they never felt before.
The non-Catholic students at Barton College carried away a new appreciation for the Catholic Church. Many say they had misunderstood the Pope's importance until they met him in person.