UD Class of 2015 Receives Vatican Letter, Response to Pope Francis at UD Campaign
One day in the spring of 2014, a few of the students who had been in Rome for Pope
Francis election a year before were hanging out, and someone said, "What if the pope
came to our graduation?"
They would graduate in May 2015. Rumor had it that Pope Francis was already coming
to the U.S. in the summer of 2015; the more they talked about it, the more it didn't seem
quite so far-fetched.
Thus the campaign was born. Alex Doucet, Candace Langsfeld, Alex Taylor and Ada Thomas,
all of the Class of 2015, created a Facebook group and set out to spread the word
far and wide, asking other students, alumni, parents and faculty to send letters to
the Vatican. They provided the address and talking points and also placed a number
of boxes around campus in which people could drop their letters to all be mailed together.
#PopeFrancisatUD drew more attention than anybody had imagined it would.
"We learned something about marketing and advertising, what will get people's attention,"
said Doucet. "We had to think about the bigger picture."
With UD's connections to Rome, the students had many advantages at their disposal,
such as priests who could carry the letters directly to their destination. The Facebook
group quickly grew to more than 1,300 members. They got other members of the Irving
and greater Dallas/Fort Worth Catholic communities involved as well; students from
Ursuline Academy, Faustina Academy and other Catholic schools also wrote letters.
"I think the community involvement, forging a connection between UD and the larger
community, was really important," said Taylor. "I hope that UD will continue to foster
Ultimately, the campaign gathered and sent approximately 400 letters. They also sent
two photographs, one of their Rome class forming Benedictus on the Rome campus as
a farewell to Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI and one of students on the Irving campus
forming Franciscus, as well as a signed flag. Campus Ministry helped with the creation
of T-shirts and postcards, which were sold on campus. Doucet, Langsfeld, Taylor, Thomas
and the others were profiled in the Dallas Morning News and on NBC DFW.
"At first there were definitely people who told us it was ridiculous and didn't want
any part of it -- but some of those same people ended up being the most supportive,"
said Langsfeld. "The most intense part of the campaign lasted about three weeks. The
whole UD community was so unified."
Then, however, there was silence. For almost a year after the letters were sent, the
students heard nothing. They weren't sure their messages had been received. It seemed
as though the whole campaign had come to nothing. Then, on April 9, Taylor went to
check his mailbox in the Student Activities and Leadership Center.
"I never check that mailbox," Taylor said. "I just thought, oh, I'll see if I have
anything. And I pulled out this letter!"
It was from the Vatican, addressed to the University of Dallas Class of 2015. In it,
Monsignor Peter B. Wells tells the students that Pope Francis was pleased to receive
their letters and had asked Wells to thank them for their kind invitation to their
graduation. Although his attendance will not be possible, he assures them of a special
remembrance in his prayers.
In addition, the Holy Father sent his apostolic blessing to the students and their
families, as well as the entire university community.
"For so long, we didn't hear anything, couldn't get in touch with anyone, didn't know
what had happened," Doucet said. "This letter just sort of dropped from the sky. He
was respectfully declining, but this was all we ever really wanted -- simply to get
his attention, to let him know what a special place he holds in our hearts."
In the photo: Alex Taylor, BA '15, Alex Doucet, BA '15, and Candace Langsfeld, BA '15, with the