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UD Class of 2015 Receives Letter from Vatican, Response to Pope Francis at UD Campaign

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 these connections."

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 letter.