Last week's Mass for the Canonization of Saint Junipero Serra, said by Pope Francis, proved to be a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for those who participated in it, and a reflection of the excitement for the Pope's mission.
"I think the Pope has a beautiful mission, which is to bring to all of us the love of Christ, who we grow closer to every day," Maria, from Maryland, told EWTN News. Maria and her husband came to the Sept. 23 Canonization Mass along with their two daughters.
The Mass marked the canonization of Junipero Serra, a Franciscan missionary from Spain who founded nine Catholic missions in the area that would later become California. It was the first canonization performed on U.S. soil.
Kaden, a high school student at Bishop McNamara High School in Forestville, Maryland, said he took the canonization and large crowd at the Mass as a sign of “hope that the Catholic faith is still alive and strong" in the United States.
His little brother George piped up that to him, the Pope's visit "means that he loves and respects us and prays for us all the time."
Fray Carlos Reyes told EWTN News that as both a Franciscan friar and a Latino, he thought the canonization on US soil was "a good gesture on the part of the Church" to recognize Serra's “work and legacy for Catholics."
The excitement for the Mass and historic canonization united Christians across denominational divides.
Chloe, a student at Georgetown University, said even though she is a nondenominational Christian, she was excited to attend her first Mass.
"I can't miss this historic opportunity," she explained, adding that she was excited "just to be in this holy place with all these people" who had come for the Mass.
The Canonization Mass also had an impact on those who helped volunteer for the Mass.
Gina, a Catholic University of America junior helping direct the crowds at Mass, told EWTN News "it was incredible" to be able to serve in that capacity. "It was just amazing to help out people and helping at Communion. Being next to the Eucharist was incredible for me."
The event also had great meaning for other Catholic University students - particularly one from California.
"It's a really special time especially for Californians … because Junipero Serra is such an important part of our history," said Dexie, a senior from San Diego – a city that sprung up around a mission St. Junipero Serra founded.
"Being a Catholic, I'm very excited that he's being acknowledged and being canonized," she added.
She also noted that the campus has been filled with "so much excitement."
"For months," she explained, "we've been preparing and not just setting up the altar … but also service, praying a lot, just getting ourselves ready for this very spiritual experience."
"It's just a really exciting time to be a Catholic.”