BUFFALO, N.Y. -- Pope Francis will visit the U.S. for the first time next month, and a familiar face to many Western New Yorkers is heading to Washington, D.C. to see him.
Sister Mary Johnice with the Response to Love Center received a special invitation from Congressman Brian Higgins. Sister Johnice was sitting in her office one afternoon when she got the call.
"To my surprise, he said, did you enjoy the Hunger Walk? I said, yeah, I really did. And he said well, I just want you to know that I do have a ticket for Congress and the Holy Father will be coming to Washington, and I'd like you to be my guest," said Sister Johnice.
She is going to see Pope Francis when he addresses a Joint Meeting of Congress next month.
"And I said, oh, I am overwhelmed, I don't know what to say. But, uh, yes! I would love to go," she recalls. "It was like a miracle. It was something that I never expected. But God's full of surprises, so you don't need to expect anything."
Sister Johnice will also represent the Diocese at the Canonization of Junipero Serra, the missionary who founded missions in California.
This will be her third time seeing the Pope. She in New York City when Pope John Paul the Second visited, and our MaryAlice Demler caught up with her when Pope Benedict visited New York City in 2008.
"I didn't meet them personally. Probably, the most important person I met in my life was Mother Theresa. So these are important people and I just think, God, why do you allow this? You know? Someone like me? And he says, well, I want you to just spread the message," she says.
She says Pope Francis is a man of prayer and poverty and she looks forward to hearing his message.
"He's a gentle person with a strong message. He's a powerful person, but he doesn't condemn. He embraces. He goes to the downtrodden. He goes to the broken. He goes to the people in need. That's what we should be doing. The world would be a better place if we followed that example," she says.
And Sister Johnice wants all of Western New York to know she will be thinking about us when she is in Washington.
"It's not about me going there, but it's me taking people in my heart. The Felician community, the City of Buffalo, the people from Response to Love Center, and I thought, what a glorious opportunity to be able to meet someone who is the leader of the Church, my boss, my hero, and just to be there and carry back the message of whatever he is going to say," she says.
If you would like to see the Pope in Washington, Senator Chuck Schumer is raffling off his allotted tickets. Schumer has one ticket to the Joint Meeting of Congress. He also is giving away one-hundred pairs of tickets for the Papal Audience on the West Lawn of the Capitol.
The deadline is Wednesday, and the lottery will be held Thursday.