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Margaret Mary Cosgrove, BVM Reflects on Meeting Pope Francis

Photo: © Vatican Media

During a week-long pilgrimage to deepen their connection to their Jesuit heritage, Loyola University Chicago Board of Trustees took part in an Ignatian pilgrimage to Spain and Italy. Margaret Mary Cosgrove, BVM has been a Loyola Trustee for 16 years—her first tenure lasted 9 years, her current term has spanned 7 years to date.

After arriving in Spain, the group began their journey with a Mass at Deusto University. They visited significant religious sites, including the Castle of Loyola, the Conversion Chapel, and Our Lady of Pilar. They also experienced cultural highlights like a boys’ choir performance, a visit to the Cave of St. Ignatius, and toured notable areas in Barcelona, such as the Gothic Quarter and the Sagrada Familia Cathedral.

A Private Audience
On May 19, they traveled to Rome, visited St. Paul’s Outside the Walls, and had Mass in a nearby catacomb. The following day, they had a private audience with Pope Francis in the Private Library of the Apostolic Palace. During this meeting, Loyola President Dr. Mark C. Reed presented the Pope with a scale replica of Loyola’s Los Lobos de Loyola statue, acknowledging his connection to the Jesuit order.

Pope Francis urged the Loyola leaders to become “diligent dreamers,” stressing that dreams are crucial for creativity and a fulfilling life. “A person who has lost the ability to dream lacks creativity, lacks poetry, and life without poetry does not work,” he said. He encouraged them to draw strength from their Jesuit heritage, particularly the spiritual path of St. Ignatius of Loyola, and to embody holistic education by integrating thought, feeling, and action.

Emphasizing the importance of service, Pope Francis called on Loyola to be “witnesses of hope” in today’s divided world. He remarked, “Yours is the task not only of forming fine minds, but also of developing generous hearts and consciences attentive to the dignity of every person.”

Margaret Mary was blessed by the visit, saying, “He was so close to us. He was friendly and warm—he smiled the whole time.” Pope Francis shared with them that his work was hard and veered from his written presentation by ad-libbing a few jokes. Pope Francis gave gifts: the men received black rosaries and the women received white rosaries. Afterward, there was time for pictures before being ushered out.

Photo: © Vatican Media

A Tour of Roman Ignatian Sites
After the audience with the Pope, they visited Ignatian sites in Rome, including the Church of the Gesù, the Rooms of St. Ignatius, San Ignazio, and the Gonzaga Rooms in the Collegio Romano. They also had a private meeting with Father Arturo Sosa, S.J., Superior General of the Society of Jesus. On May 21, the leaders attended Mass in a private chapel within St. Peter’s Basilica, followed by a tour, and visited St. Mary Major’s to see the site of St. Ignatius’ first Mass. They also toured the John Felice Rome Center.

The journey concluded on May 22 with a visit to the grounds of Castel Gandolfo, where they saw the Vatican Observatory run by the Jesuits and toured the Papal Palace. The final Mass of the pilgrimage, the Mass of the Holy Spirit, was celebrated at Chiesa di Sant’Ignazio with the Rome Center students and faculty.

Margaret Mary recalls Pope Francis’ emphasis on the importance of returning to one’s roots to draw strength and move forward—highlighting St. Ignatius’ focus on seeking God’s will and service. She was touched by his words regarding the necessity of hope, especially in times of global crisis and agrees with his statement, “Without hope, one cannot live . . . Hope never disappoints!”

A Personal Reflection
As Margaret Mary reflects on the pilgrimage to various Loyola/Jesuit sites she is struck by how “we pilgrims” became connected to one another through shared experiences. She reflects, “We work together several times a year on Board and Committee meetings motivated by our commitment to Loyola University Chicago and the Jesuit values it embodies and teaches. I have been connected to Jesuits since as a young child we visited my Dad’s University of San Francisco (USF) classmates at Sacred Heart Novitiate. Jesuits from USF, Phoenix, and Dallas became a part of our family.”

Margaret Mary was also taught by Jesuits at Guadalupe College, the BVM California novitiate. She treasures these connections and the many others she has made since then. She adds, “There is a special spirit to the Jesuit charism which along with the life story of Ignatius bonded us on our journey. Each site showed another aspect of Ignatius and his life of service.” Margaret Mary feels that these common experiences helped the group form a special relationship enriched by their service on the Loyola Board. “Certainly our private audience with Pope Francis was the highlight of our pilgrimage, but it was meaningful because of the experiences we shared before meeting with him. His smile was so genuine and welcoming that we were at home in his presence. There was a ritual to the visit, but it was familiar, not cold and formal. I know this experience will make me a better Board member with a renewed commitment to Loyola and its mission.”

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