Christendom College Gearing Up for Pope's Visit and 30th Anniversary Gala

April 10, 2008

The faculty, staff, and students of Christendom College in Front Royal, Va., are looking forward to an exciting week of celebration as they prepare to welcome Pope Benedict XVI to America at the Papal Mass in Washington, D.C., on April 17 and celebrate the College’s 30th Anniversary with a gala dinner dance on April 19 at the Washington Dulles Hilton.

Christendom’s President, Dr. Timothy T. O’Donnell, will represent the College community at a number of events reserved for special guests only.

Then Cardinal Ratzinger with Dr. Timothy O'DonnellOn April 16, the Holy Father’s 81st birthday, O’Donnell will join a small group of dignitaries at the White House where President Bush will meet with the Holy Father. Then, later that evening, O’Donnell is scheduled to attend a reception at the Italian Embassy where a number of former U.S. Ambassadors to the Vatican will celebrate the Pope’s historic visit to America.

O’Donnell and fifty Christendom students, along with 15 members of the faculty and staff, will attend the Papal Mass at Nationals’ stadium on April 16. The College received 65 tickets from the Diocese of Arlington, Va., and a drawing was held to determine who would attend the Mass.

Following Mass, thirty students attending Christendom’s Notre Dame Graduate School, located in Alexandria, Va., will join hundreds of other students on the grounds of The Catholic University of America, hoping to get a glimpse of the Holy Father as he drives in his popemobile throughout the campus. A number of Christendom’s undergrads will also attend this event and will carry the Christendom College banner to show the College’s total support and faithfulness to the Magisterium and to the Holy Father.

Later that day, O’Donnell will meet with the other leaders of the American Catholic colleges and universities as Pope Benedict addresses them at The Catholic University of America on the state of Catholic higher education in America.

A recent story in US News & World Report makes the claim that “Christendom College embodies Pope Benedict’s vision for education.” Some have even speculated, such as writers at Time magazine, as to whether the Holy Father will single out colleges such as Christendom College, Thomas Aquinas College (Santa Paula, Calif.) or Ave Maria University (Naples, Fla.) for being “precisely the kind of eruptions of non-state-related religious vitality at which [Pope Benedict] thinks [Americans] excel.”

Due to the lack of space and the manner in which tickets were distributed around dioceses, the entire student body is unable to attend the Papal Mass. But, fortunately, about 35% of Christendom’s current students have spent a semester in Rome and have had many opportunities to see Pope Benedict up close and personal, both at St. Peter’s and at Castel Gandolfo.

1“The students who take part in the semester in Rome program are quite blessed,” says Director of Admissions Tom McFadden. “Our students live, study, and take classes in buildings that are located within eyesight of St. Peter’s, thus affording our students ample opportunities to truly experience what life is like as a Roman. So many of them have returned with amazing stories of having been so close to the Pope and having touched his hand or kissed his ring.”

Just this past March 5, while on pilgrimage to Rome, O’Donnell had the opportunity to meet with the Pope at the general audience, at which His Holiness extended personal greetings to members of Christendom College.

Prior to his election as Pope, Benedict honored Christendom College by serving as the Chairman of its 25th Anniversary Honorary Dinner Committee in 2002. At that time, Cardinal Ratzinger wrote a letter to President O’Donnell saying, “I am well aware of the distinguished record of Christendom College and of the outstanding contribution which it has made to Catholic life in the United States. For this reason, I am particularly honored to associate myself with such a fine Catholic institution of higher learning and my prayers are that Christendom College will enjoy many more years of service in the education and formation of young people.”

Now celebrating its 30th anniversary, the College will welcome the Chairmen of its 30th Anniversary Honorary Dinner Committee, Francis Cardinal Arinze and Dr. Joaquin Navarro-Valls, to its campus on April 18-20.

Dr. Joaquin Navarro-Valls, former spokesman for Pope John Paul II, will deliver an address on Pope Benedict XVI at a special academic convocation to be held on April 18 in Christendom’s St. Louis the Crusader gymnasium.

Marcus GrodiOn April 19, Christendom will hold its anniversary gala dinner dance at the Washington Dulles Hilton with EWTN personality Marcus Grodi (pictured left) serving as the emcee for the evening. Francis Cardinal Arinze and Dr. Joaquin Navarro-Valls will be in attendance, as will another 500 friends, benefactors, and guests, including Bishop Paul Loverde of the Arlington Diocese, Human Life International’s President Fr. Tom Euteneuer, and former U.S. Ambassador to the Vatican James Nicholson.

The evening, which will both celebrate the college’s thirty years of authentic Catholic higher education as well as the third anniversary of Pope Benedict’s election, will begin with internationally renowned Irish tenor Mark Forrest singing the National Anthem.

The busy week will conclude with a Mass in Christendom’s Chapel of Christ the King on April 20, celebrated by Cardinal Arinze.


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