A word of advice from rising senior at Holy Family High School Riley Tuttle, if you get the chance to meet Pope Francis make sure to bring Oreos.
Riley Tuttle, along with her mother, Tami, theology teacher at Holy Family Dave Good and 20 other soon-to-be Holy Family High School seniors spent 10 days traveling throughout Italy learning about prominent figures and places in the Catholic faith, including seeing a. public address by the pope in Rome.
Good, who has been organizing and participating in the trip for about 15 years, described it as a “pilgrimage of faith” for rising seniors to experience before their final year of high school and they step out into the world as adults. The trip had been paused since 2019 due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but finally returned this year.
But this year’s trip was a little different as Riley uses a wheelchair, which can make international travel and some tourist activities somewhat difficult. But with a little help from her classmates, she didn’t let it slow her down.
“I have a huge admiration for Riley and her mother,” Good said. “We knew it would be challenging, but she did it and experienced everything. The other seniors were very helpful with helping her get into places that didn’t have a ramp or weren’t exactly ADA accessible. “
Riley’s mother echoed Good’s sentiment saying it was amazing to see Riley’s classmates rally around her to make sure she had all the same experiences they did throughout the trip.
While Riley divulged all the amazing moments of the trip she and her classmates got to experience, such as having mass in some really unique places, even outdoors and in a crypt, there was one moment that stands out against all the rest.
One morning, while in Rome, was set aside to see Pope Francis at his general audience hall. Riley left early with her mother to head to the area where the address would be given since they would be seated in a different area than the rest of the group because she uses a wheelchair.
When they arrived and were seated by officials, Riley was already in awe at how close to the stage they were.
“Our seats were literally right next to where the pope was,” Riley said. “I had no idea we were going to be that close, that alone made me go ‘whoa.'”
Tami Tuttle said when the pope arrived he was also in a wheelchair due to a recent knee issue and was helped to his seat, which resonated with Riley.
“She was really struck emotionally by being able to relate to him using a wheelchair and how he was walking,” said Tami Tuttle.
Riley said seeing the pope walk exactly how she walks was emotionally overwhelming.
“I just cried the whole time. I was trying really hard to compose myself, ”Riley laughed.
Though this was not where the roller coaster of emotions ended. At the end of the audience hall, an individual approached Riley and her mother telling them they could now get in line to meet with the pope.
“We had no idea we were going to meet him,” Riley said. “I was like ‘OK, I have to stop crying now,’ and I quickly composed myself and we got in the line.”
Luckily, Good had heard a rumor that Pope Francis was a fan of Oreo cookies and on the off chance that Riley would get to meet him they should bring some as an offering.
“I bought two packs of Oreos for him, so when we got up to him I gave him both of them and he actually gave back one of the packs to me,” Riley said. “He seemed really excited about them.”
Although he was speaking Italian most of the time, the pope laid his hand on Riley’s head, blessing her.
“It was a really sweet moment,” said Tami Tuttle. “He was so quiet and calm. I wanted to pinch myself to make sure it was real. “
After a short and sweet moment, Riley and Tami Tuttle were given a small leather package that contained a white rosary.
“It was such a surreal experience,” said Tami Tuttle. “The whole trip was really amazing because of the knowledge and education that came along with it. Mr. Good and the other leaders of the trip were so knowledgeable. This also wouldn’t have been possible for Riley without Mr. Good and her classmates willing to go the extra mile to help her have this experience. We are forever grateful to him. “
For Riley, it was her first time traveling internationally, but she said even with some of the difficulties it was more than worth it for the experiences she had while in Italy.