Tens of thousands of people have flocked to the East Coast for Pope Francis’ visits this month to Washington, D.C., New York City and Philadelphia, and most of them would be happy just to catch a glimpse of the Catholic Church’s leader. St. Thomas’ Sister Katarina Schuth had the same thought in mind Sept. 5 as she visited Rome on a pilgrimage with Catholic Extension. She and 40 other board members had prime seats among the 50,000 people at a general audience. Schuth did see Pope Francis from a distance, and afterward the group took to the steps of St. Peter’s Square for a picture.

“Then all of a sudden the pope was just there,” Schuth said. “Next thing you know he walks right in front of me, stops, and says that he knows I work very hard at the university and he appreciates it. He asked that I pray for him in his difficult job, and I told him I pray for him all the time. He thanked me and said, ‘Don’t forget, don’t work too hard and make sure you rest more.’”

Just your typical bit of friendly advice. From the pope.

“It was amazing,” Schuth said.

Schuth found out later that Archbishop Blase Cupich, a St. Thomas graduate and fellow member of the trip, had spoken to Pope Francis about her and mentioned the work she does, of which there is no lack: Schuth has been a member of the Sisters of Saint Francis of Rochester since 1960; has been at St. Thomas for 25 years, where she is a faculty member of sociology and the Saint Paul Seminary School of Divinity; is an author; is a speaker around the world; and has worked for decades for many charities and nonprofits. Far from a random stop, Francis singled her out to thank her as a representative of American nuns, Schuth said.

“It was an amazing spiritual gift,” Schuth said of her meeting with Francis. “It’s been a real inspiration for me to keep doing the work I’m doing and working hard. I’m working on a book right now and it’s definitely a lot easier to keep going with that.”

Schuth said Cupich plans on delivering a signed copy of that book to Pope Francis when it’s finished. Now he’ll have a face to go with the author’s name.

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