Trinity mourns the death of Pope John Paul II. We will remember him and pay tribute to his extraordinary life and leadership in a special Liturgy in Notre Dame Chapel on Trinity’s campus on Wednesday, April 6 at 11:45 a.m., and this service will be open to the Trinity family as well as all in the larger community who wish to pay tribute to the Pope.
Trinity feels special affection for Pope John Paul II because he chose Notre Dame Chapel as the site for his meeting with leaders of other faiths on his first visit to the United States in 1979. For this reason, we also extend a particular invitation to people of all faiths to join us for the special service on Wednesday.
I remember that day in 1979 well. Trinity’s campus was packed with alumnae, students, faculty, staff and hundreds of friends of Trinity and admirers of the Pope. I remember being very close to him as he emerged from the meeting in Notre Dame Chapel, smiling broadly at all of us on the Chapel steps and walkway, waving and touching many hands. He then stood in his open car (this was several years before the assassination attempt, when people still believed that no one would want to harm the Pope), and his motorcade swept around the front circle and onto Cuvilly drive, where he drove through the campus waving to and blessing the crowds lining the road all the way to Kerby Hall.
At Kerby, the current parking lot was then a lawn, across which lay a great red carpet (now in the Art Gallery). All along the carpet, scores of seriously ill individuals waited anxiously to catch a glimpse of the Pope. He saw this great gathering of suffering people, stopped his car, and spent a very long time walking along the carpet, touching and blessing each person. This moment truly captured Pope John Paul’s deep personal commitment to people in need.
Pope John Paul II influenced Trinity in other important ways. He was a strong advocate for women’s education, and he condemned invidious discrimination against women. He also was an ardent proponent of social justice for the poor and oppressed peoples of the earth, repeatedly challenging the developed world to extend its wealth to the poor. He said that Catholic institutions of higher education had a particular obligation to extend education to the poor and members of minority groups who had been deprived of access to higher education in the past.
In 1990, Pope John Paul II issued Ex Corde Ecclesiae, the Apostolic Constitution on Catholic Higher Education. In this document he wrote that it should clearly be part of the work of a Catholic university to conduct research and teaching in “…areas such as the dignity of human life, the promotion of justice for all, the quality of personal and family life, the protection of nature, the search for peace and political stability, a more just sharing of the world’s resources, and a new economic and political order that will better serve the human community at a national and international level.” Such an agenda has long been essential to Trinity’s curriculum. Our best tribute to Pope John Paul II is the continuing renewal of Trinity’s commitment to promote justice, encourage charity, and work for peace through all of the teaching, learning and faith-filled living we share together on this campus and throughout the great family of Trinity.