BISMARCK, ND — Jose Luis Jimenez Jr., a sophomore studying a semester at its Rome campus, had just wrapped up a game of Ultimate Frisbee with some classmates when the campus director got a call from the Vatican requesting Jimenez read for Mass.
“I said yes immediately,” Jimenez recalled. But then he heard it was a papal Mass and his legs got shaky. “The first thing that popped into my head was ‘why me?’”
After all, Catholic studies was only his minor. Math was his major. Dr. Michael Lombardo, director of Mary’s Rome campus, said the University of Mary has had an exceptional relationship with the Vatican. Fr. Geno Sylva, an American priest from New Jersey who works at the Pontifical Council for the Promotion of the New Evangelization, celebrates Mass at the same Santa Spirito church Jimenez attends and is a lector.
Plus, Lombardo added, “Jose is an exceptional young man, prayerful, articulate, bilingual in English and Spanish, and a very good student.”
Jimenez will serve as lector for the Nov. 4 Papal Mass and offered for the repose of the souls of recently deceased cardinals and bishops. It will be streamed live at 2:30 a.m. Pacific Time.
Up to now, the closest encounter Jimenez has had with Pope Francis came during a general audience when he drove by in his Popemobile.
“The most I was hoping for was to see Pope Francis very close. I never asked for this, yet God blessed me with this opportunity because He plans on doing something with it. I am not sure if I’ll get to personally say hello to Pope Francis, but I have heard that he sometimes says thanks to the readers by shaking their hands during the sign-of-the-peace. So that’s what I am hoping for.”
Jimenez has also requested prayers from everyone with whom he has shared the news. He hopes it will help calm his nerves in front of such a large crowd.
“I feel blessed. I still can’t believe it,” he said. “God has blessed me with such an amazing opportunity and the only thing I can pray about is for God to give me the courage to confidently spread his message through me reading to His people.”