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Diocesan seminarian meets the Holy Father

By RENEE WEBB, Globe editor
(Email Renee)

Bishops making their ad limina visit were able to bring someone with them to meet the Holy Father. Given that the Diocese of Sioux City has a seminarian studying at the North American College Bishop Walker Nickless selected him for this honor.

“It was both, exciting and humbling,” said David Esquiliano, diocesan seminarian. “Throughout the last few months we have been hosting bishops from different dioceses in the US. Just a few have taken a seminarian with them. When Bishop Nickless sent me an email telling me that he wanted me to go with him, I felt very grateful for the great privilege.”

However, this was not the first time that Esquiliano has met the pope. He first met the Holy Father in January 2010. The NAC was celebrating its 150th anniversary, and they were granted a private audience with him. It happened to be during the alumni reunion, so the private audience was attended by about 400 people.

“That morning the Holy Father came through the central aisle greeting almost everyone individually,” said the seminarian. “We only had a few seconds per person, but I was able to kiss the Ring of the Fisherman, or papal ring. I wasn't able to say anything, though, because I was speechless.”

This time around, though, things were different.

As they were waiting in an antechamber to see Pope Benedict XVI, Esquiliano told Bishop Nickless what had happened the first time he met the Holy Father. He also told the bishop that this time he was going to be prepared.

“First I told him (the pope) I was a seminarian, and he asked me if I was a seminarian in Rome,” he said. “After Bishop Nickless introduced me, I told the Holy Father that I had been born in Mexico and that I was excited for his upcoming trip. He smiled and asked me if I spoke Spanish, to which I said yes. Then he asked me if I was a seminarian for Iowa, and once again I gave an affirmative answer.”

In addition to Sioux City seminarian, one other seminarian who is a native of the Diocese of Des Moines was able to meet the pope. Esquiliano pointed out that he is aware that a few other seminarians have also been able to meet the Holy Father, but that can be difficult for dioceses with a large number of seminarians in Rome.

“I'm currently the only seminarian from Sioux City in Rome, so I always enjoy having someone from the diocese visiting,” he said. “Unfortunately the first days Bishop Nickless was in Rome I had a cold, so I couldn't spend as much time as I would have wanted with him. Regardless, I enjoyed every single conversation I had with him.”

At the end of this year Esquiliano will finish his STB, or Baccalaureate in Sacred Theology. God-willing, his ordination to the transitional diaconate will be held in Rome this October. He said he would like to thank everyone for their prayers and asks for the prayers to continue as his ordination approaches.

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