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(Left to right) Jose Rodriguez, Nakia Bell, Cardinal Blase Cupich, Gladys Valdivia-Hernandez, and Mosie Duhe
"My favorite memories are meeting Cardinal Cupich and having my picture taken with him and the grand entrance of the pope, the cardinals, and the archbishops during the ceremony."
~Nakia Bell
Chicago Students Travel to Rome for Cardinal Cupich Elevation

Two students from Christ the King Jesuit College Preparatory School (CTK Jesuit) and Cristo Rey Jesuit High School in Chicago had the opportunity of a lifetime in November. Joining Mayor Rahm Emanuel's Vatican Delegation to Rome, Nakia Bell of CTK Jesuit and Gladys Valdivia-Hernandez of Cristo Rey Chicago attended Archbishop Blase Cupich's elevation to the College of Cardinals on November 19, 2016.

Traveling with Nakia and Gladys were Jose Rodriguez, vice president of CTK Jesuit and Cristo Rey Chicago's Corporate Work Study Program, and Mosie Duhe, a work study coordinator at CTK Jesuit, as well as Bruce Rauner, governor of Illinois; Dick Durbin, senior United States senator from Illinois; Jo Ann Rooney, president of Loyola University Chicago; and a number of other public officials and private figures.

Nakia and Gladys spent four days in Rome and attended Cardinal Cupich's consistory ceremony, as well as a reception held for him after the ceremony. The following day, they were among a crowd of 150,000 celebrating the Mass for the Feast of Christ the King and the closing of the Jubilee Year of Mercy. They also received a private tour of the Vatican Museums and the Sistine Chapel.

Both Nakia and Gladys work in Mayor Emanuel's office as part of their schools' Corporate Work Study Programs. They spend five days each month supporting the mayor's staff by logging correspondence and doing other administrative tasks. Every CTK Jesuit and Cristo Rey Chicago student works at a Chicago area business or non-profit organization to support the cost of her or his education. Their earnings and family tuition payments, coupled with scholarship support and financial aid, provide the opportunity for a safe, rigorous, Jesuit education for students in Chicago.

Nakia wrote the following reflection about her experience:

I am a senior at Christ the King Jesuit College Prep in Chicago. I had the honor of joining Mayor Rahm Emanuel's delegation to Rome to witness our archbishop, Blase Cupich, become a cardinal. My four days in Rome were amazing.

I have lived in the West Garfield Park neighborhood with my five sisters my entire life, so when I found out I would be traveling to Rome, I was very surprised. Then, as I learned the details of the trip, I became very excited! This was my first time ever traveling abroad and my first time in an airplane, so I was a little scared. The travels weren't that bad; after a while, it felt just like being on a coach bus.

I was selected for this opportunity, because for the past two years, I have worked five days a month in Mayor Emanuel's office as part of the Corporate Work Study Program at CTK Jesuit. I read letters, use autopen, and fax invitations. I love working at the mayor's office. I feel trusted and respected by my supervisors and coworkers. Out of the 100+ jobs in the program, I think I have one of the best! My work, the tuition my parents pay, and the financial assistance the school raises provide for my education. I am also a member of the Majorettes, a dance team that performs with the school's marching band.

We were very busy on the trip. I met so many people. I remember how nice Cardinal Cupich was at the reception following the consistory ceremony. I was surprised he know who I was! We had a short conversation, and I got to take my picture with him. I also met Governor Bruce Rauner and Illinois Senator Dick Durbin. All the people I got to meet were very welcoming and full of joy.

Some of the other highlights from my trip include meeting the US ambassador to Italy at his house (mansion!), attending the Mass for the closing of the Year of Mercy in St. Peter's Square, and visiting the Vatican Museums, the Pantheon, the Trevi Fountain, St. Peter's Basilica, and the Spanish Steps. The food we had on the tour — fresh bread and a delicious sandwich and gelato — was so good! I still think about it.

I have been home for a few weeks and have had the opportunity to share my stories from my experience many times. I am back preparing for exams and working hard to finish all my applications for college. My top choices are Marquette University and Michigan State University, and I want to study biomedical science so I can become a pediatric cardiologist.

Looking back, I learned a lot about the Catholic faith on the trip. I can see how this experience was a really great way to put my Jesuit education at CTK Jesuit into context.




Nakia and Gladys with Fr. Brian Paulson, SJ, provincial of the Chicago-Detroit Province
 

Gladys and Nakia with Dr. Jo Ann Rooney, president of Loyola University Chicago
 




Gladys and Nakia in St. Peter's Square

[Sources: CTK Jesuit, City of Chicago, Chicago Tribune, ABC 7





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