PATRICK-CROWD Apr-19-2008 (690 words) xxxn
Midwesterners join cathedral crowd hoping to catch glimpse of pope
By Angelo Stagnaro
Catholic News Service
NEW YORK (CNS) -- New Yorkers weren't the only people waiting for Pope Benedict XVI to arrive at St. Patrick's Cathedral April 19 for a morning Mass for clergy and religious.
Catholic Midwesterners were among the thousands of people hoping to catching a glimpse of the pontiff.
Carole DeCosse and Karla Smith were the chaperones -- and wranglers -- for 36 teenage girls from several parishes and a private Catholic all-girls academy in the Chicago area.
"I'm really eager to see, hear and be in the presence of Pope Benedict XVI," DeCosse told Catholic News Service.
"For me, as a Catholic, he is the vicar of Christ on earth," she said. "And so I want to be close to him and to listen to what he has to tell us Americans. I also want to hear what God will be telling me personally through his words, so that I can take advantage of this wonderful opportunity to love God more and to try to transform my life."
"A lot of people from my school wanted to come to New York City, but they couldn't, so I feel very privileged," said Jackie Frelk, 17, of Gurney, Ill., also north of Chicago. She is a junior at the Willows Academy in Des Plaines, Ill., which has a junior high and high school program.
"The pope is Christ's representative on earth. It's an honor for him to come to our country. I'm especially excited to hear what the pope has other say to young people," she said.
"I'm using this time to take advantage of prayer," she added.
"This is really exciting for my girls," DeCosse said. "I think the whole trip will make a big impact on them because they will have the chance to be with thousands of other young American Catholics who are enthused and committed to Christ and our faith and who will also be really excited to be with Pope Benedict XVI."
Patsy Laird, 16, of Arlington Heights, Ill., north of Chicago, said she thinks the pope is "great."
"Pope Benedict XVI is a man of faith and reason," said Laird. "He's a profound theologian and a great spiritual leader. He's one of the biggest influences in the world."
"This is a great, once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. I'm very excited," she added. "I'm skipping a soccer tournament just to be here."
Laird plays left forward on her school's team.
Jillian Streiff, 17, also a junior at the Willows Academy, took time away from a school play to be in New York. "My drama teacher was very understanding," she noted.
"I think Pope Benedict XVI is a very, very smart man," she said. "He's extremely intellectual but he knows how to speak in a way that is understandable to everyone. I could understand his (encyclical) 'Deus Caritas Est.' ('God Is Love'). He really connects very well to everyone."
Streiff was energized at the prospect of seeing the Pope at Yankee Stadium the next day.
"It's going to be great to see other people, teenagers, adults, kids hearing the pope and see what he has to say. I really believe it's a deeper insight into my faith," she said.
"I was supposed to go on a date with a really nice guy who goes to our brother school but when this trip came up, we decided to postpone it until after I get back," she added.
About the girls she was chaperoning, Smith said she hoped the experience of seeing the pope "will touch each of their young hearts and so that they follow whatever God has in store for them. I really believe Pope Benedict XVI's presence here will positively impact our society."
DeCosse chimed in: "Sharing the faith with their peers and being united as youth with the holy father, of belonging to the family of the church, really strengthens their convictions and helps them to be strong in following Christ, in being able to be nonconformists in our materialistic and hedonistic world."
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