NFA Campus Minister Dan O’Sullivan (second from left) joins students for a special blessing and dedication of the “Francis Tree” during a prayer service on Sept. 25. Shown with O'Sullivan are (from left) Joe Valinis, Milton James, Henry Loome, Ana Cwietniewicz, Nancy Mabry, Cate Aaron and Isabelle Millan. (Photo courtesy of Terri Hutsell)

NFA Campus Minister Dan O’Sullivan (second from left) joins students for a special blessing and dedication of the “Francis Tree” during a prayer service on Sept. 25. Shown with O’Sullivan are (from left) Joe Valinis, Milton James, Henry Loome, Ana Cwietniewicz, Nancy Mabry, Cate Aaron and Isabelle Millan. (Photo courtesy of Terri Hutsell)

With the historic arrival of Pope Francis in the United States, Norwood-Fontbonne Academy has taken full advantage of this monumental and teachable moment.

Approaching the upper or lower campus, one is greeted by a lifelike cutout of Pope Francis. Past the initial greeting from the Pope, one will find students learning about the history of the Papacy, the biography of Pope Francis, and even students engaging in scholarly study of Francis’ teachings in his recent encyclical, “Laudato Si.”

“It’s as if Pope Francis wrote parts of “Laudato Si” with the teachings of NFA in mind,” said Daniel O’Sullivan, the new director of campus ministry at NFA.

“Pope Francis teaches us that human life is centered around God, our neighbor, and the Earth, O’Sullivan said. “When the Sisters of Saint Joseph teach the students about God, how to be ‘dear neighbors’ is always central. In looking closely at the NFA logo, a tree is right in the middle – showing NFA’s dedication to the Earth and the environment.”

NFA was one of the few schools in Philadelphia open on Friday, Sept. 25, which presented an opportunity to celebrate the Pope’s visit in a unique way. During a prayer ritual held on Friday morning, a “Francis Tree” was dedicated on both the lower and upper campuses of NFA. The staff and students formally blessed an existing tree and renamed it the “Francis Tree.”

“All these experiences show NFA’s connection to the global church as a community of Catholic believers” said O’Sullivan.

In NFA’s case, a teachable moment from Pope Francis turned into an unforgettable lesson.

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