Pope's visit hits home
Two Imlay women among thousands at Yankee Stadium mass
April 23, 2008IMLAY CITY — It was all about connections for Candice Madrazo and Josie Coates.
They were connected through their faith as parishioners of Sacred Heart Catholic Church. And their faith drove them to want to connect with the Father of their church—Pope Benedict— who was making a historic visit to the United States last week.
The women sent their names into the Archdiocese of Detroit, and hoped they'd be among the chosen few who'd get to see the Pope. Their hopes were met and exceeded.
"I was ecstatic," Madrazo says of learning that she and Coates were chosen. "It has ben a life dream to see the Pope, he's the Father of our church."
Coates, who serves as Sacred Heart's Director of Education, was equally thrilled.
"I felt very fortunate, very lucky," she says. "It was important to me to go so I could push that connection to the kids I teach, to inspire them to want to connect with him as well."
And connect they did. Though Madrazo and Coates only had a week to make travel arrangements—which were at their own expense—they embraced the opportunity to fly to New York for the Pope's historic mass at Yankee Stadium.
With 55,000 fellow Catholics, the women went to the stadium at 9:30 a.m. The weather was very chilly, Madrazo notes, and the stadium was packed.
"There were just so many people going up and down, up and down," she says. "Once you got in, you could not go out until the Pope left."
|Candice Madrazo and Josie Coates are still elated from weekend visit to New York to see Pope Benedict at Yankee Stadium. photo by Catherine Minolli.|
Security was very tight, the women note, and despite the huge amount of people officials handled the crowd well.
While they waited, the women connected with each other. Though they'd been acquainted through their church, the trip to see the Pope deepened their friendship.
"It turns out we were perfect traveling companions," Coates says. "We are now close friends."
They chatted until 2:30 p.m., when the Pope arrived. The moment was spectacular, Madrazo says. Though the day had been chilly and overcast, something amazing happened when Pope Benedict arrived.
"The sun came out right when he got there," Madrazo says. "It was just magical."
The entire stadium lit up with excitement, she says.
"People were up screaming and clapping and waving flags," Madrazo says. "It was just beautiful."
The women took part in the two hour mass, where 550 priests helped pass out communion.
The experience was remarkable, Coates says.
"I really formed a personal bond with the Pope that just wasn't there before," she says, noting that she still felt the loss of Pope John Paul II.
"But to see Pope Benedict, to see how humble he is, how holy he is, it really comes through," Coates adds.
Fulfilling their dream of seeing the Pope was an outstanding experience, both women say. It was also interesting to see firsthand the level of security that goes with the Pope's historic visit.
"For three days New York's finest were out in record numbers," Coates says. "It was amazing. The security throughout the whole thing was at an all time high."
The women returned to Imlay City on Monday, overjoyed with all the connections they made.
"It was just spectacular, just magic," Madrazo says of the experience. "I am so thrilled to have the experience."