Hundreds of Bronx youth were left stranded on Saturday, April 19, after their chartered buses failed to show, forcing numerous kids to miss their opportunity to attend Pope Benedict XVI’s rally at St. Joseph Seminary in Yonkers.
“They kept telling us they were on their way,” Our Lady of Assumption principal Katy Feeny said about her numerous calls to the bus company after they didn’t arrive as scheduled.
Waiting with a crowd of approximately 75 students and chaperones from OLA, as well as from St. Theresa’s, she said they did the only thing they thought might help – they prayed.
“We waited and prayed the rosary, hoping that would clear the traffic,” Feeny said of the only possible reason for the delay.
“They kept telling us they were on their way,” Feeny recalled. “Finally at 1:30 p.m. they told us they weren’t coming.”
Devastated by the news, Feeny gave her apologies to the upset students before sending them home.
“The kids were very disappointed and sad,” she said.
As were students at St. Benedict’s Church, who arrived at 10:30 a.m. to make the 11 a.m. bus, only to never see one come.
“The kids were just broken-hearted,” said Father Richard Smith. “This was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.”
Smith credits the students for waiting patiently and making the most of a difficult situation.
Easing their pain, Barino’s Market, in Country Club, donated approximately 40 heroes to students and chaperones at the parish.
After finding out his own two children were still waiting for their bus to arrive, co-owner Moe Aquino said, “We had to feed them before they went, because they were going to sit for at least two more hours.”
Knowing their bus wasn’t coming, St. Theresa’s principal Josephine Fanelli arranged some alternative transportation.
She quickly arranged for a few parents at the site to make a “Hail Mary” trip to the event, with approximately 25 students from both OLA and St. Theresa, all praying to make it on time.
Knowing the Bronx River Parkway was scheduled to close at 2 p.m., Fanelli said God was definitely on their side. “We got off the exit at 1:59 p.m.,” she said.
The group made it to St. Joseph Seminary just in time to see the Holy Father make his entrance.
“We didn’t let anyone stop us so we did what we could do to get there,” Fanelli said.
Feeny added for the students who made it, their tardiness granted them an unexpected perk.
“The pope rolled his window down and blessed them,” she explained about the late arrival that placed the kids at a prime spot near the gate.
Students from St. Francis Xavier were also able to make the event by the sheer goodwill of available parents, who hurriedly drove the kids to Yonkers after their buses failed to show.
Benedict addressed more than 25,000 youth at the theological school’s fields.
“It was quite a moving day, a moving experience for all of us,” Fanelli said.
As for those left behind, Feeny explained since she already secured tickets to the Yankee Stadium Mass the following day, she had rosaries blessed for all the children – a small relief to their devastating weekend.
Charter Demand, the bus company contracted by the Archdiocese of New York, notified Smith that due to the large nature of the operation, the company unknowingly sub-contracted unreliable buses for the trip.
A representative from the corporation said they would also send a letter of explanation to Msgr. Donald Dwyer, Vicar of the East Bronx.
Fanelli said of the 14 buses hired to transport east Bronx schools to the event, only four ever showed.
Debra Trignani, principal of St. Francis de Chantal said they were one of the lucky ones – very lucky.
After waiting for over three hours, their bus finally arrived at approximately 2:30 p.m. and they made it to the event just in time.
Through it all, Trignani said, “The kids never lost their hope for the pope.”