Sister Anna Imelda Nguyen, OP, meets Pope Francis on pilgrimage in the footsteps of Saint Dominic
FORT WORTH — Sister Anna Imelda Nguyen, OP, hoped to see Pope Francis at a distance during her three-week pilgrimage which took her from Portugal to Italy. She would have been content to be in the crowd at St. Peter’s Square when the pope recites the Sunday Angelus each week.
“Never in my imagination would I be able to meet the pope,” said the Nolan Catholic High School theology teacher. But on Sunday, August 13, she and her travel companions, four other religious sisters from the Dominican Sisters of Mary Immaculate, had a brief meeting with the pontiff after the Sunday Angelus.
Even when the meeting was arranged on August 11 by Monsignor Francis Dung Minh Cao, a friend of Sr. Anna Imelda’s religious superior, the five sisters assumed that they would be part of a large general audience.
But meeting him personally was “Providence,” said Sr. Anna Imelda. “It was nothing we intended.”
The encounter only lasted a moment. She introduced herself and shook his hand, and Pope Francis smiled and assured her he was praying for her in her vocation.
“Shaking the hand of the Vicar of Christ was an honor,” she said, adding that the experience was humbling. “He’s the leader of the Catholic Church, but he’s our shepherd, guiding us. He is for the people. He is for us.”
The introduction to Pope Francis was the highlight of her three-week pilgrimage to World Youth Day and major sites from the life of Saint Dominic. The first two weeks, she accompanied University of Dallas students to the birthplace of Saint Dominic — Caleruege, Spain — as well as the Sanctuary of Our Lady of Fatima and Lisbon, Portugal, where World Youth Day was held.
After World Youth Day, Sr. Anna Imelda and her fellow Dominican sisters traveled to Toulouse, France, where Saint Dominic founded the order; to Bologna, Italy, where he died; and to Rome, where his order was sanctioned by Pope Honorius III in 1216.
Sr. Anna Imelda felt they were truly following in the footsteps of Saint Dominic after visiting those locations and others important in Saint Dominic’s life, then meeting the pope in Rome, as did Saint Dominic.
The three weeks were “a huge blessing that I’m still processing,” said the chair of Nolan’s theology department. “I’m still reaping the graces that God has given me.”