UCF medical school student Jenn Bazemore Fundora has had a life-changing few months. She’s gotten married, matched into a pediatric residency program at the prestigious Johns Hopkins Hospital and now has received a blessing from Pope Francis at a special newlywed ceremony in Rome.
Jenn and her husband, Chris, who were married in December 2013, had already planned a graduation trip to Rome when they learned about the nuptial blessing and jumped at the chance to be part of it. On April 16, they joined nine other couples from around the world, all dressed in wedding gowns and tuxedos. Each couple spent about two minutes with the pontiff.
“We were thrilled and beyond excited to have had this opportunity! It was literally a once in a lifetime chance to have our marriage blessed by the Holy Father that we’ll be able to share for years to come,” said Jenn, who graduates from the UCF College of Medicine on May 16.
Couples must apply to the Vatican to receive the blessing, have been married in a Catholic church, ideally within two months of their Papal visit, present their certificate of sacramental marriage signed by their priest, and wear wedding attire at the event.
The couples were ushered in front of St. Peter’s Basilica to receive their personal blessings in private, after the Pope’s weekly audience. The blessing was especially meaningful to Chris and Jenn because their parents were also able to travel to the Vatican to share their experience.
Jenn described Pope Francis as being down-to-earth and a people’s Pope.
“We saw one couple take a ‘selfie’ with him, which wasn’t really allowed, and everyone was told to put their phones away,” she said. “We were disappointed, so at the end of our conversation, Chris asked if he could have a hug, and Pope Francis said, ’Of course!’ I don’t remember exactly what he (the Pope) said because we were very caught up in the moment.”
To celebrate the event, each newlywed received a white rosary blessed by Pope Francis. For now, Jenn and Chris’ rosaries are tucked safely away, but Jenn said she plans to share her story and the rosaries with family members for generations to come.
Jenn said the vacation to Europe and the Papal visit gave her a chance to relax before graduation and beginning her residency in June.
“During our trip I was able to reflect on my last eight years in Orlando,” said Jenn, who graduated with honors from UCF’s Burnett School of Biomedical Sciences before entering medical school. “I will really miss UCF and Orlando, and it’s bittersweet to leave. On the other hand, I am very excited to start my career as a pediatrician and the next chapter of our lives in Baltimore.”
Chris, from Pembroke Pines, Florida, graduated from UCF in 2010 with a degree in Management Information Systems and works as a systems analyst.