Benedict XVI makes his first U.S. visit

When Pope Benedict XVI visits the United States next week, the Bluegrass will be well represented.

The Diocese of Lexington received 75 tickets to distribute among parishioners — 50 to see the pope celebrate Mass at Yankee Stadium in New York City on April 20, and 25 to see him in Washington, D.C., on Thursday, said Deacon Jim Paris, diocesan secretary for pastoral life.

The 25 Washington tickets all went to St. John School in Georgetown, where the seventh- and eighth-grade classes were already planning a school trip to the nation's capital.

”They planned the trip because it tied in with their curriculum in American history,“ said Carrie Thayer, communications director of Saints Francis and John Catholic Community. ”But when they found out the pope was coming, they extended the trip from four days to five days.“

The children will see the pope celebrate Mass at Nationals Park, the new stadium of the Washington Nationals baseball team.

”They're very excited,“ Thayer said. ”It's the chance of a lifetime.“

Diocesan officials from Lexington will also be at papal events in Washington. The Most Rev. Ronald W. Gainer, bishop, will attend a papal visit; Vicar General Mark Dreves will attend a Mass; and William Farnau, superintendent of diocesan schools, will join other school superintendents and university chiefs as the pope addresses them at Catholic University.

Two tickets to see the Pope in New York are in the hands of Zachary Davis, a senior majoring in history at Transylvania University, and Dr. A. Patrick Schneider II, a family physician in Lexington and friend of Davis.

”It's very much a pilgrimage. We plan to leave Saturday (April 19), be there for the Mass on Sunday and be back in Lexington by Monday,“ Davis said.

Davis can hardly contain his enthusiasm. ”I'm thrilled because the Holy Father is going to be turning 81 and is not nearly the traveler that John Paul (II) was. Still, the beauty of the papacy is that different men can hold the office and still bring their own gifts to it.“

Also worshiping at Yankee Stadium will be Joe and Laura Westbrook, members of Cathedral of Christ the King in Lexington.

”It's a big deal because the pope is a successor to Peter,“ Jesus' disciple, Joe Westbrook said. ”Apostolic succession is directly traceable to Peter's first commission as pope.“

The Westbrooks will caravan to New York with friends who also received tickets. ”We'll pray a rosary and have some fun,“ Westbrook said. ”It'll be a quick trip.“