Vatican City,26 September 2015 (VIS) – The School of Our Lady Queen of Angels in Harlem has 282 pupils aged from 5 to 14, of whom 69 per cent study as a result of a scholarship. The children are from low income families, so-called “dreamers” (those who follow the American dream), adult or unaccompanied minors migrating from Latin America (69 per cent), refugees from Africa or the Middle East, and also African Americans (22 per cent). The school forms part of a network of six Catholics schools in the Harlem and South Bronx neighbourhoods, financed and managed by the Catholic charitable initiative Partnership, coordinated by the archdiocese of New York, to whom the premises belong. The foundation was formally instituted in 2010, and aims to break the vicious circle of poverty.
The Pope arrived at the School of Our Lady Queen of Angels yesterday shortly after 4 p.m. (10 p.m. in Rome) to meet with the pupils, their families and the teachers who awaited him in the gymnasium. It was an informal meeting in which the Pope asked forgiveness from the teachers for taking some minutes away from the lesson and commented that one of the most beautiful characteristics of the school was the fact that some of the pupils come from other places and many from other countries. “That is nice”, he added. “Even though I know it is not easy to have to move and find a new home, new neighbours and new friends. At the beginning it can be hard. Often you have to learn a new language, adjust to a new culture, even a new climate. There is so much to learn! And not just at school; so many other things”.
“The good thing is that we also make new friends”, he continued. “And this is very important. … We meet people who open doors for us, who are kind to us. They offer us friendship and understanding, and they try to help us not to feel like strangers. … Although at times we dream of our homelands, we meet good people who help us to feel at home. How nice it is to feel that school is a second home. This is not only important for you, but also for your families. School then ends up being one big family where … we learn to help one another, to give the best of ourselves, to work as a team, which is so important, and to pursue our dreams”.
“Very near here is a very important street named after a man who did a lot for other people. I want to talk a little bit about him. He was the Reverend Martin Luther King. One day he said, 'I have a dream'. His dream was that many children, many people could have equal opportunities. His dream was that many children like you could get an education. He dreamed that many men and women, like you, could hold their heads high, with the dignity of one who earns a living. It is beautiful to have dreams and to be able to fight for them. Do not forget”.
“Today we want to keep dreaming. We celebrate all the opportunities which enable you, and us adults, not to lose the hope of a better world with greater possibilities. ... I know that one of the dreams of your parents and teachers is that you can grow up and be happy. … It is not always easy. In every home there are problems, difficult situations, illness, but never stop dreaming that you can live with joy. Dear children, you have a right to dream and I am very happy that here in this school, in your friends and your teachers, you can find the support you need. Wherever there are dreams, there is joy, Jesus is always present”.
Before leaving, the Pope asked the children if he could give them some homework. “It is just a little request, but a very important one”, he said. “Please don’t forget to pray for me, so that I can share with many people the joy of Jesus. And let us also pray so that many other people can share the joy like yours, when you feel supported, helped and advised, even when there are problems”.