Parishes, Catholic schools begin allocating tickets for papal Mass
Wednesday, March 05, 2008 12:44 AM
Now that information about tickets to Pope Benedict's April 17 Mass at Nationals Park has been released by the Archdiocese of Washington, interest in attending the liturgy is high among the faithful in archdiocesan parishes and schools.
"There is a lot of excitement, a lot of interest here, and a real desire to see the Holy Father and attend Mass with him," said Msgr. Mark Brennan, pastor of St. Martin of Tours Parish in Gaithersburg. "It will be a great occasion."
He said his parish will distribute its allotted tickets via a lottery of interested registered parishioners.
"We also plan to set up a big screen television in the school gymnasium for people who can't get to the stadium for Mass but would like to watch the Mass as a group of parishioners," Msgr. Brennan added.
On Feb. 29, archdiocesan officials notified parishes and schools in the archdiocese of the number of tickets they will receive to the Mass. The ticket allocations were made after archdiocesan papal trip organizers sifted through more than 100,000 ticket requests from around the country and the world - more than double the available seats.
At Jesus the Divine Word Parish in Huntingtown, Father Dan Leary, pastor of the parish, said his parishioners "are pumped up to see the Holy Father."
"I could probably give away five times as many tickets as I got. It's great that people are very excited to see him," Father Leary said. "I just think there is something that draws people to Peter, that draws people to the truth."
At the Shrine of the Most Sacred Heart Parish in Northwest Washington, Capuchin Franciscan Father Stephen Carter, pastor of the parish, said that he will divide his ticket allotment among the four language groups that attend Mass there: English, Spanish, Haitian-Creole French and Vietnamese.
"Our parishioners are excited and have been asking for some time about how to get tickets," Father Carter said. "As Catholics, we recognize he (Pope Benedict) represents Peter on earth. A lot of people who probably won't have the chance to go to Italy to see the Holy Father want to see him while he is in town."
The Mass is the only public event of the pope's short visit here. Pope Benedict will be in Washington April 15-17, the first leg of a six-day trip to the United States. After leaving Washington, he will visit New York and address the United Nations.
Pope Benedict will arrive in Washington on April 15. He will receive an official White House welcome the next day and later address the nation's bishops.
On April 17, he will celebrate Mass at the new Washington Nationals stadium. Later that day, he will meet with educational leaders at the Catholic University of America and attend an interreligious meeting at the Pope John Paul II Cultural Center.
Originally, Mass organizers were going to set up the sanctuary at the stadium's second base. By moving the altar to center field, an additional 4,000 people can attend the Mass.
About 45,000 seats will be available for the Mass. Of the tickets available for distribution, nearly 16,000 will go to 148 parishes and missions in the archdiocese. In addition, approximately 13,000 will be distributed to clergy and religious, Catholic high schools and campus ministries in the Archdiocese of Washington, Catholic organizations, volunteers and others.
"There is interest among the youth of the parish to see the Holy Father," said Father David Russell, pastor of St. Anthony Parish in North Beach. "It's not surprising that the teens have this interest - they are faithful people."
The young people at Bishop McNamara High School in Forestville are also looking forward to attending the Mass celebrated by Pope Benedict, according to the president of school.
"Our kids are wonderfully excited - they are just absolutely caught up in being a part of history in being at that Mass. They're very, very excited," said Heather Gossart, president of the school, which is sponsored by the Holy Cross Brothers.
Gossart said that there is great enthusiasm for the pope's visit even among her non-Catholic students.
"The idea of being in the presence of the Holy Father is completely awe-inspiring, and there is interest among the non-Catholic students," she said. "That is because our teachers are doing a wonderful job of really having the Holy Father come alive not only in terms of theology, but also in terms of his personhood."
According to Susan Gibbs, a spokesperson for the archdiocese, there are "different approaches to ticket distribution, ranging from free lotteries to asking those interested to write letters saying why they would like a ticket."
Gossart said that her school will give out their allotted tickets on a first-come, first-served basis.
"We'll let the kids sign up, and instead of us selecting (who will go to the Mass), we'll let the Holy Spirit work here. For every certain number of kids, we'll have faculty chaperones join them." Because very few parking spaces exist near Nationals Park, those who attend the Mass are encouraged to take public transportation.
The Metro's Navy Yard station on the Green Line is just a block away from the entrance to the stadium.
Gossart said her school will pay for buses to transport students to the Mass. She added that the school will pay for buses to transport the students to the Mass. "They can attend this Mass at no cost to them," Gossart said.
Earlier last week, the archdiocese notified the approximately 120 dioceses in the United States that had requested tickets that they will share a total of nearly 14,000 tickets.
Of the tickets being distributed to these dioceses, about 6,000 will go the Diocese of Arlington and 2,500 will be given the Archdiocese of Baltimore.
Gibbs stressed that the tickets are free, non-replaceable and may not be sold.
While the quantities are being announced now, the actual tickets to the Mass will be provided closer to the event.
The Mass at Nationals Park baseball stadium will be Pope Benedict's first major public event in the United States. Organizers say the Holy Father will also ride in his popemobile during his Washington visit, so people who cannot attend the Mass will be able to see him.
The popemobile routes have not yet been announced.