Pope’s visit draws Minnesotans to East Coast
ST. PAUL -- Calling it a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, Catholics from across the Twin Cities will travel to the East Coast next week to get a glimpse of Pope Francis.
ST. PAUL - Calling it a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, Catholics from across the Twin Cities will travel to the East Coast next week to get a glimpse of Pope Francis.
The Minnesota faithful will join hundreds of thousands expected for the pope’s six-day tour, his first to the United States.
There will be a procession through Central Park in New York City, appearances at the White House and Congress in Washington, and a massive open-air Mass in Philadelphia.
Parishioners of several churches will file onto buses early next week headed to the Philadelphia events. Several Twin Cities residents will be guests of Congress and will get a chance to see Pope Francis in Washington. Mary Jo Copeland, who founded the local Sharing and Caring Hands agency that serves the poor, is expected to get a private audience with the pope.
“This is my opportunity to witness history,” said Emily Klinker, director of faith formation at St. Victoria parish in Victoria, who will join a group of Catholics headed to Philadelphia.
The papal visit will be the first to the United States since Pope Benedict in 2008. Pope Francis will arrive Tuesday outside Washington, where he will make appearances before heading to New York and then Philadelphia before leaving Sunday.
Locals sharing their hopes for the visit include:
Jean Stolpestad, director of marriage, family and life at the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis, is leading a group of 26 people to Philadelphia to attend the pope’s Mass and hear him speak at the World Meeting of Families.
While there, the group will visit Catholic shrines across the city and join others packing meals for people in Africa.
“There’s going to be so much joy. It will be such a deep time of renewal for all of us,” Stolpestad said.
Klinker, of St. Victoria parish, will join Stolpestad’s group. A mother of three teenagers, Klinker said the trip will be a chance to do something people typically only hear or read about.
“Working for the church, a lot of times, ministry and administration get kind of blurred so I’m looking forward to… a whole week of ‘Aha! This why I do what I do.’”
Like many, Ryan Currens of Burnsville had received an open invitation to write to President Barack Obama about Pope Francis’ viewpoints on social issues. He wrote the letter with low expectations. So when Currens got a call from the White House five weeks ago, he couldn’t believe it. He called the White House back just to make sure.
He was one of a handful from each state chosen to witness Obama’s official White House greeting of Pope Francis from the South Lawn Wednesday. Currens gets three tickets and will take his wife Meghan and their parish priest.
An administrator at Church of the Assumption in Richfield, Currens is an active member of the Knights of Columbus and the Catholic War Veterans. He is excited to witness history and hopeful the pope’s interaction with U.S. leaders will have an impact.
“If we can get our lawmakers to be on the same page as the Holy Father as far as basic human rights, and justice for immigrants, it would be a great thing,” Currens said.
When Mary Lynn Vasquez and her sister Judy VanDemmeltraadt heard the pope was coming to the United States, the devout Catholics quickly decided they had to go. Then they saw some of the prices. Many arranged trips were going for about $1,500 for transportation and lodging.
Vasquez, of St. Paul, and VanDemmeltraadt, of Rosemount, knew they couldn’t afford that. But they kept praying.
“We said, ‘If we’re supposed to go, something will happen,’ ” Vasquez said.
A couple of weeks later, VanDemmeltraadt called her with amazing news. A friend of VanDemmeltraadt’s mailed her a check for $3,000 so they could go.
“It was just amazing. I couldn’t breathe when I was on the phone,” Vasquez said.
The friend who gave her the check is not Catholic but respects Pope Francis and told VanDemmeltraadt that if she were Catholic, she’d do everything she could to attend, too.
A group of students and campus ministers from St. Paul’s University of St. Thomas and St. Catherine University will board a bus for Philadelphia on Thursday evening.
The group of 44 will attend the church’s World Meeting of Families conference, take in the pope’s Mass and connect with other Catholic college students while staying at a local university.
“It’s not just St. Paul or St. Kate’s or St. Thomas; it’s this country and even beyond that, this world, that we’re connected in a way beyond what we often recognize,” said Laurie Svatek, director of campus ministry at St. Catherine University.
The pilgrimage will expand his spirituality, said Connor Theisen, a St. Thomas student who will make the trip.
Not only will he get to see and listen to the pope’s “words of love and servitude,” but he will also get to pray with fellow Catholics who share the same passion and faith, he said.
The Pope and the Church play a more prominent role in college students’ lives than most people think, said Theisen, who leads a Bible study group on campus.
“Most college students come in with a type of spirituality they’ve had for years,” he said. “But the independence, stress, relationships, and temptations of college life puts that spirituality to a test.”
Mary Jo Copeland is a tireless advocate of the poor.
She is the founder and executive director of Sharing & Caring Hands and Mary’s Place in Minneapolis, which provides food for the poor, shelter for homeless families and assistance for immigrants and others in need.
A few months ago, Copeland said, she prayed that she could someday meet the pope and even wrote a letter to the Vatican. As her work expands, a chance to have it blessed by a pope she admired would mean the world to her.
“There’s been many volunteers that have come to serve meals, to tutor children, to donate money, to just be a part of this wonderful place,” Copeland said of Mary’s Place.
A few weeks ago, she got a call from the Vatican inviting her to Washington, D.C., during Pope Francis’ visit to the United States. She will get the unique privilege of a private audience with the pope. She will be joined by her husband and Auxiliary Bishop Andrew Cozzens.
An advocate who believes that “a smile and an outstretched arm can make a miracle in someone’s day,” Copeland is inspired by Pope Francis’ “loving heart” and work to “bring change to the world.”
“I hope to bring back a piece of that energy to the (volunteers and people they have served) for all these years,” Copeland said. “I want to bring back his love.”