8 people from metro high school travel to see Pope speak during U.S. tour

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KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- As Pope Francis sets out on his tour of three American cities, a group from here in the metro is heading to Philadelphia on their own pilgrimage to see him.

It's not a sightseeing vacation, it's a spiritual pilgrimage that's taking eight people from here at Rockhurst High School, including six students, to see Pope Francis speak during his tour of the United States.

When the first Jesuit Catholic pope speaks in Philadelphia on Friday, Rockhurst seniors Hans Hodes and Ted Steyer will be in attendance. Their names, along with those of four other students, were chosen in a random drawing during a school contest back in the spring.

“I was just surprised I actually got chosen by putting my name in a lottery. I didn't expect to be chosen,” Steyer said.

“I went upstairs and kind of bragged to my friends a little bit that I got selected. They were excited for me,” Hodes said.

This marks the first American visit for an active Pope since Pope Benedict came calling in 2008. For young Catholics like these students, this is a historic chance to meet a church leader known for his progressive beliefs.

“In his first week, I know he went to a prison and washed the feet of inmates. I don't think many people would want to do that. Right off the bat, you knew he was going to be someone special,” Hodes said.

Father Vincent Giacabazi, a teacher at the high school, will be one of the two adult chaperones along for the Philadelphia trip. In the past, he's seen other popes speak to parishioners.

“I hope they find it to be good news, his message. I truly hope they are challenged by it,” said Father Giacabazi.

The trip doesn't exactly include luxury accommodations. Those eight travelers from here at Rockhurst High School will spend their four nights in Philadelphia at a Philly-based Jesuit school, where they'll likely sleep on the floor.

The group of eight from Rockhurst High will depart from KCI Airport Thursday morning. St. Joseph College Prep in Philadelphia, plans to host 300 students from other Catholic schools. School leaders told FOX 4 News donors have contributed financially to ensure students could make the trip to Pennsylvania.