Leslie Knopf is a graduate of UK and The Newman Center and had the opportunity to receive the Sacrament of Confession from Pope Francis on March 4th during his annual “24 Hours for the Lord” event, which takes place the fourth Friday and Saturday of Lent inside St. Peter’s Basilica. Leslie spent three years in Rome earning her licentiate in Internal Church Communications at Rome’s Pontifical University of the Holy Cross. She will soon be moving to Austin, TX to serve as business director for a Catholic media organization called Catholic Bytes. It started as a podcast, then grew to an initiative for the Vatican for the Year of Mercy and has grown into other initiatives – next year they are developing five more initiatives. I had the opportunity to talk with Leslie about her experience; here’s what she shared:

Do you have any thoughts you want to share about your time at The Newman Center.

Leslie: I was at the Newman center all four years of my college experience at UK. Honestly I can say that’s where I truly found my faith and where it became personal. So, really my experience in Rome, the courage I had to leap into an unknown field with Church Communications, to move to a new country, all of that, I can attribute to the formation I received at the Newman Center and the time that I spent there. Especially with Fr. Steve Roberts and Fr. Al; their care for the students and their care for our spiritual lives and our relationship with Christ is what helped me to really love the Church and from that love, I started to think about what I wanted to do with my life. I realized that I wanted to communicate Christ and I didn’t think there was a field that existed for that in terms of career. So I just started praying about it. When I did missionary work in Chicago, I met a priest who told me about the program in Rome. Through a lot of help and encouragement with Fr. Steve, I decided that was the path I wanted to go and it’s been an awesome experience. The Newman Center has had everything to do with that next phase of my life and why I’m doing what I am today.

As a convert, I still struggle with doing Confession “right”; did you do anything special when you found out you were going to meet the Pope?

Leslie: The confession was very normal with him, but beforehand it was such a huge grace and a huge blessing. I was more thankful than anything to get to meet the Vicar of Christ.  The whole experience was like me calling myself out; really the Lord presenting me with the opportunity of Him calling me out. I lived really close to St. Peter’s so I would go to the square to think and pray. Before the confession, I remember thinking, “I really need to examine my conscience; this is the Pope, oh my gosh!” Then I thought, “This is how much attention I should be paying every time, because it really doesn’t matter if it’s the Pope.” If I went to confession with a priest of 50 years or 1 year or in some po-dunk town in Kentucky, it would be the same thing. It was a huge experience for me to re-focus on the meaning of the sacrament. And how powerful the Sacrament is and the respect I should be giving it because it’s such a gift. I think sometimes we don’t let the importance or the beauty of it soak in. Every time we go, it’s an encounter with Christ. For myself, I take that for granted. I try to make a habit of going to Confession every couple of weeks. After a while, I get into the habit, kind of like going to Mass. I really have to make the effort to be mindful of what I’m doing – examining my soul to go meet the Lord and receive forgiveness. To keep that supernatural reality in mind, so it doesn’t become something that’s just normal and taken for granted, but something extraordinary.
I think my whole experience with the Holy Father put that back into perspective for me because that situation was out of the ordinary.  But, that’s what Confession is every time.

To read more about Leslie’s Confession with Pope Francis, check out the article in Catholic News Agency here:  http://www.catholicnewsagency.com/news/whats-it-like-to-go-to-confession-with-pope-francis-48898/