A bishop, a nun, an educator and a well-regarded church volunteer from Iowa are in Washington, D.C. today to see Pope Francis speak to congress this morning. The address is scheduled to begin at about 8:20 a.m. Iowa time.
Each member of the House and Senate was given one ticket for a seat in the House gallery for the historic occasion. Congressman Dave Loebsack and Senator Chuck Grassley gave their tickets to their wives. Senator Joni Ernst gave her ticket to Bishop Richard Pates of the Des Moines Catholic Diocese.
Congressman Steve King gave his ticket to Sister Marie Hesed. Hesed served alongside Mother Theresa for 27 years. Hesed is now spearheading a drive to build a religious renewal center in rural Carroll County. Congressman David Young gave his extra ticket to Joseph Connolly, the president of St. Albert Catholic School in Council Bluffs.
Congressman Rod Blum contacted the Catholic parishes in the first district, asking each to nominate a lay person who exemplifies dedication to the church. Max Ortner, a volunteer at the Blessed Sacrament Church in Waterloo, won Blum’s extra ticket in a drawing. Blum covered the costs of Ortner’s trip to see the pope.
Each of Iowa’s four congressmen were given 50 tickets and both of Iowa’s U.S. Senators were given 200 tickets for access to an area just outside the capitol in Washington. The crowd there will be able to watch the pope speak to congress — on giant screens brought in especially for the occasion. Pope Francis will exit the Capitol’s west steps after his speech, giving the crowd outside a chance to see the pope in person.