A Creighton College of Arts and Sciences student is set to meet Pope Francis while visiting the Vatican on internship in Rome.

A.J. Olnes, a journalism major on the public relations track, arrived in Rome in early February for an internship at the U.S. Embassy to the Holy See in the Public Diplomacy section. The internship is three months long.

Olnes had been aware of this opportunity for quite some time, as Carol Zuegner, who is the chair of the Department of Journalism, Media & Computing, had told him about the internship about a year ago.

After brushing it off thinking he would never get it, he ended up applying for it last spring and was accepted to the program in the middle of the summer.

“The reason I wanted to pursue this internship was because it involved everything a P.R. major needs to know,” said Olnes, “from event planning to social media, press releases, photography and internal communications and research and so much more.”

Through his internship, Olnes drafts the Embassy’s primary news product, serves as the Embassy’s social media manager and captures notable U.S.-Vatican events as the official Embassy photographer and videographer.

Among his duties as an intern, Olnes recently photographed the Holy Week celebrations at the Vatican.

I think being able to photograph all of the Holy Week celebrations at the Vatican has been an experience I will never forget,” Olnes said. “How many people can say they have photographed the Pope during the holiest time of year for Catholics?”

The internship has provided many opportunities for Olnes, such as working with Callista Gingrich, the U.S. Ambassador to the Holy See, on a regular basis. He also plans several events and visits to the Embassy.

One event in particular, a symposium titled “Stand Together to Defend Religious Freedom” garnered over 100 attendees, including over 50 diplomats and many journalists. The Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal Pietro Parolin, the number two person in the Holy See behind the Pope, gave the closing remarks at the symposium.

“I have really enjoyed working at the Embassy. Ambassador Gingrich is an incredible person and being able to work for her and our country has been an invaluable experience,” Olnes said. “I am treated as an equal in the Embassy and have been given a lot of responsibility but it has allowed me to grow as a person and professional.”

Yesterday, Olnes had a meeting with the Pope, set up through his work for the U.S. Embassy to the Holy See.

“No doubt meeting the Pope will be one of my favorite experiences.”

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