Pope Francis Encourages students at an elementary Catholic School in Harlem to use the Opportunities provided by Education to realise their Dreams
“You have a right to dream….. Wherever there are dreams, there is joy, Jesus is always present.” This was the message by Pope Francis to children when on Friday he visited Our Lady, Queen of Angels School, in the district of Harlem in New York. The largely catholic school is attended by children from poor families, of mainly migrants and African Americans. It has about 300 students ranging from pre-kindergarten through the eighth grade. It was once part of the church of Our Lady Queen of Angels, which was closed in 2007 as part of a large number of church closures by the Archdiocese of New York due to lack of funds and diminishing vocations to the priesthood. Pope Francis encouraged the children to use the opportunities provided by education to realise the dream of a future with greater possibilities.
Here below is the full speech in English.
I am very happy to be with you today, along with this big family which surrounds you. I see your teachers, your parents and your family members. Thank you for letting me come, and I ask pardon from your teachers for “stealing” a few minutes of their class time!
They tell me that one of the nice things about this school is that some of its students come from other places, even from other countries. That is nice! Even though I know that it is not easy to have to move and find a new home, new neighbors and new friends. It is not easy. At the beginning it can be hard, right? Often you have to learn a new language, adjust to a new culture, even a new climate. There is so much to learn! And not just at school.
The good thing is that we also make new friends, we meet people who open doors for us, who are kind to us. They offer us friendship and understanding, and they try to help us not to feel like strangers. To feel at home. How nice it is to feel that school is a second home. This is not only important for you, but also for your families. School then ends up being one big family. One where, together with our mothers and fathers, our grandparents, our teachers and friends, we learn to help one another, to share our good qualities, to give the best of ourselves, to work as a team and to pursue our dreams.
Very near here is a very important street named after a man who did a lot for other people. I want to talk a little bit about him. He was the Reverend Martin Luther King. One day he said, “I have a dream”. His dream was that many children, many people could have equal opportunities. His dream was that many children like you could get an education. It is beautiful to have dreams and to be able to fight for them.
Today we want to keep dreaming. We celebrate all the opportunities which enable you, and us adults, not to lose the hope of a better world with greater possibilities. I know that one of the dreams of your parents and teachers is that you can grow up and be happy. It is always good to see children smiling. Here I see you smiling. Keep smiling and help bring joy to everyone you meet.
Dear children, you have a right to dream and I am very happy that here in this school, in your friends and your teachers, you can find the support you need. Wherever there are dreams, there is joy, Jesus is always present. Because Jesus is joy, and he wants to help us to feel that joy every day of our lives.
Before going, I want to give you some homework. Can I? It is just a little request, but a very important one. Please don’t forget to pray for me, so that I can share with many people the joy of Jesus. And let us also pray so that many other people can share the joy like yours.
May God bless you today and Our Lady protect you.