Locals get opportunity to worship at Papal Mass

While hundreds of thousands of visitors are flocking to Washington, D.C.,  for Pope Francis’ visit, a few from the Northern Shenandoah Valley will be among those attending a Mass led by the pope on Wednesday.

Earlier this month, the Catholic Diocese of Arlington distributed tickets to its parishes for the Papal Mass and canonization of Junipero Serra at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington. Those tickets were then distributed to parishioners in the valley via random drawings and lottery.

At the 4:15 p.m. Mass on Wednesday, Pope Francis will canonize Junipero Serra, a friar who started missions in California in the 18th century. This will be the first canonization in the U.S., and it will be spoken in Spanish. The official visit website states that around 25,000 people will be in attendance.

For the ticket lotteries of Sacred Heart of Jesus Catholic Church and its Saint Bridget of Ireland mission church, second graders at Sacred Heart Academy picked names from out of a hat to receive the tickets; two seated tickets for St. Bridget parishioners and two seated and three standing tickets for Sacred Heart parishioners.

Jane Cannata, a Sacred Heart parishioner from Winchester, said she was praying the rosary at the time and received text messages about her selection afterward.

“I didn’t think I stood a chance and that I’d be watching it on television like most other people,” she said. “To be attending it … it’s overwhelming.”

Cannata said she wants to walk into the Basilica for quiet contemplation before Mass without any preconceptions about the experience.

“Pope Francis breathes another life into our church … his message of forgiveness is being felt and being heard very clearly,” she said.

At St. John the Baptist Roman Catholic Church in Front Royal, pastor Jerome Fasano drew the winner of the church’s two seated and one standing tickets and announced them during Mass.

Margaret Jones was attending the Mass and her 16-year-old son Elijah was serving at the altar when they learned that the index card with their names had been drawn.

“I just felt immense gratitude to God,” she said. “I also really felt the affirmation of the people of our parish, and I do plan to, at those events, pray for all the people in our parish and all the people in Front Royal.”

She and Elijah will use the two seated tickets and the third standing ticket will go to one of their friends, depending on the circumstances.

Jones had fully planned on traveling to D.C., New York City and Philadelphia to “trail” the pope’s visit when she first learned about it in February. Although she knocked New York off their list since then, she said they will try to attend the Festival of Families on Saturday as well as the two Masses on Saturday morning and Sunday afternoon while in Philadelphia.

“This is kind of like a pilgrimage … amazing things always happen when I’m traveling with Elijah,” she said. “It will just be a time of great grace.”

For Sacred Heart parishioner Patrick Beltran, receiving the lottery Mass ticket was simply an instance of lightning striking a third time. Due to a job commitment and the invitation of a friend, he saw Pope John Paul II during a visit to Baltimore in 1995 and Pope Benedict XVI during a visit to Washington in 2008.

“In every case, I considered it to have been opportunities of a lifetime,” he said. “I have a great deal of respect for all three popes.”

Beltran said he plans to visit family members living in the northern Virginia as part of his visit. Even though he only received one ticket from the lottery, he plans on attending the Papal parade with his aunt and friends.

“I hope that the pope’s visit in the U.S. bears spiritual fruit, as it were,” he said. “I think the pope’s message is very important.”

For those without tickets to events on the pope’s schedule and those unwilling to brave the city crowds, the visit will be accessible through several live streams at the official website, http://tinyurl.com/pht2xgg.

Contact staff writer Rachel Mahoney at 540-465-5137 ext. 164, or rmahoney@nvdaily.com