McHenry County Catholics journey to see Pope Francis in first U.S. visit
CRYSTAL LAKE – Kathy Breuss felt the time her family left for Washington, D.C., was providential.
As of 3 p.m. Friday, she and her family had packed portable radios, cards and – most importantly – their rosaries in their car outside their Crystal Lake home.
Catholics regard the time as the hour of mercy, a trait also encouraged by the man behind the Breuss family’s sojourn.
Like thousands of Catholics, the Breuss family traveled to Washington for Pope Francis’ first U.S. visit.
They’ll be among several people from McHenry County venturing to the East Coast to hear his holiness speak about families.
“As a family, we want to go and share our love for our holy father and know there are families all over the United States praying for him,” Kathy said. “He’s asking all of us to pray for him, so we want to go there to welcome him.”
Francis will arrive Tuesday in Washington, where he will be greeted by President Barack Obama.
On Wednesday, the 78-year-old Argentina native will have a meeting with Obama, followed by a full day of activities. On Thursday, Pope Francis will address a joint session of Congress.
Kathy Breuss, along with her husband, Jerry, and their 9-year-old daughter, Jenna, will be on the west lawn of the U.S. Capitol for a live simulcast.
They won tickets to attend the simulcast through U.S. Rep. Randy Hultgren, R-Plano.
The tickets were an added bonus to a trip the family already considered blessed to be on. As a lifelong Catholic, Jerry lined up the trip in May as soon as he learned of the papal visit.
“There are only so many graces you get,” Jerry said. “Just the idea to be there and be able to see him. And also just to be with all the people.”
To prepare, the family has been praying the National Prayer for the Papal Visit and lighting candles at St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Church in Crystal Lake.
“Him coming here, one of my prayers is that light passes on to all of us. I see a vision of all these lights all over the United States,” Kathy said.
Jenna’s classmates at St. Thomas the Apostle School also have helped her prepare for the road trip by signing a card meant for Pope Francis.
With his face and signs celebrating his arrival plastered on the side of their car, Jenna said she already is considering how remarkable the trip could be.
“Someday, he could be a saint,” Jenna said. “And then I could go up and say, ‘I visited this saint when he was alive.’ ”
On Friday, Pope Francis will travel to New York for a visit to the United Nations, a service at the 9/11 Memorial and Museum, and Mass at Madison Square Garden.
His trip then will shift to Philadelphia, where he will take part in the World Meeting of Families.
That’s where Dorothy Kumon and her daughters, 12-year-old Monica and 10-year-old Ashley, will come in.
They’re taking a coach bus that should arrive Saturday in Philadelphia and ferry them back to their Huntley home by Monday.
Kumon said she had been contemplating the trip all summer, although she was concerned with how the long journey would wear on her as a cancer survivor. Ultimately, she decided it was a trip they had to take because she wanted her daughters – students at St. Margaret Mary Catholic School in Algonquin – to experience Pope Francis celebrating Mass.
Her Catholic faith, Kumon said, carried her into remission. So her battle with cancer, while making her question her ability to travel, also stood as a reason for her to go.
“That’s part of a pilgrimage,” Kumon said. “You have to put up with a little bit of suffering, but from that comes a lot of grace.”