Kelly Calderon, who grew up in East Flatbush and is a parishioner of St. Joseph’s Co-Cathedral, Prospect Heights, had an experience in June that many Catholics only dream about: She met the Holy Father in person.
She was in an audience with Pope Francis as part of the Vatican’s International Youth Forum June 19-22.
“We definitely felt his presence,” Calderon said. “When he walked into the room, everyone started chanting for him, mostly “Somos la juventud del papa!” (We are the pope’s youth) …
“He kind of told us to take a chill pill, and laughing like, ‘It’s just me, guys.’”
Calderon took time to plan exactly what she was going to say to Pope Francis. But in the moment, a prayer for the pontiff was all that was on her lips.
“When I got up there, I was going to say, ‘Pray for my parents and my family,’” she said, “but what came out was, ‘God bless you always.’ He kind of laughed a little like he wasn’t expecting me to say that.”
The youth forum in Rome brought together almost 250 people ages 18 to 29 from 109 countries to discuss both last October’s “Synod 2018 on Young People, the Faith, and Vocational Discernment,” and the document Pope Francis wrote based on the synod, called “Christus Vivit.”
In Christus Vivit, the Holy Father encouraged the church to reach out to youth and young adults, especially those disconnected from the faith. The young people at the forum discussed how they can apply Christus Vivit in their home dioceses.
“During the youth forum … the reoccurring theme for me was the sense of community, the sense of being there for one another is a strong, important part to keep in mind, and to know the church is always there for you,” Calderon said.
Calderon is living temporarily in Rome. She’s getting closer to the end of a yearlong internship with the Vatican’s Dicastery for Laity, Family and Life that started last October. She assists bishops with initiatives to help laity in their country, and translates documents from Spanish or Italian to English, and vice versa.
As she looks beyond her internship, she said she wants to evangelize and bring joy to the world through the faith.
“I’m not sure how, and I’m not sure where I’ll end up, but for sure, I find joy in helping those who may need help, or just being there in case they want to know more, whether it’s youth or women or anyone,” she said.