MN legislators invite guests to pope’s congressional address

| Bridget Ryder | September 23, 2015 | 0 Comments
The U.S. Capitol dome is seen behind the entrance to the House of Representatives on Capitol Hill in Washington. During his Sept. 22-27 visit to the United States, Pope Francis will address a joint meeting of Congress Sept. 24, becoming the first pope to do so. CNS /Larry Downing, Reuters

The U.S. Capitol dome is seen behind the entrance to the House of Representatives on Capitol Hill in Washington. During his Sept. 22-27 visit to the United States, Pope Francis will address a joint meeting of Congress Sept. 24, becoming the first pope to do so. CNS/Larry Downing, Reuters

A few lucky Minnesotans will be part of history Sept. 24 as gallery observers of Pope Francis’ address to a joint session of Congress. These chosen few are special guests of the Minnesota congressional delegation and will be seated in the gallery above the floor of the chamber for the pope’s talk. Each senator and representative received one guest ticket for the exclusive area. Here is a rundown of the invitees.

  • Accompanying Rep. Tim Walz, Democrat, to the joint session of Congress will be Sister Alice Zachmann, a School Sister of Notre Dame who founded the Guatemala Human Rights Commission/USA in 1982 and served as director for 20 years. Like Walz, Sister Alice lives in Mankato, where she continues to fight human rights abuses in Guatemala. Walz, a Democrat and a Lutheran who was raised Catholic, represents Minnesota’s first district, which includes Mankato, Rochester and Winona. “I am proud to have Sister Alice as my guest as the pope addresses Congress,” Walz said in a Sept. 16 statement. “Her lifetime of dedication and service is an inspiration, and her commitment to improving the lives around the world serves as an example for all of us.”
  • Rep. John Kline, Republican, will be accompanied by two of his staff members who are Catholic, according to his spokesperson, Troy Young. Kline is Methodist and represents the second district, which includes Eagan, Burnsville and Cannon Falls.
  • Accompanying Rep. Erik Paulsen, Republican, to the joint session will be his staff member Laurie Esau. Now residing in Orono, Esau is a graduate of the University of St. Thomas in St. Paul and grew up attending St. Olaf Church in Minneapolis. She also volunteered at St. Patrick in Edina. Paulsen, a Lutheran, represents the third district, which includes Minnetonka and Bloomington.
  • Rep. Betty McCollum invited Father John Harper to the join session, though she will not be attending personally since she is in Japan this week celebrating her son’s wedding. “Like millions around the world, I have been inspired by the Holy Father’s words and his living example of faith. I welcome the pope to the U.S. for this historic visit,” she said in a Sept. 19 statement. “I would also like to welcome Father John Harper, who will be my guest at the Holy Father’s address to Congress. Father Harper is the uncle of my chief of staff, Bill Harper, and the pastor at Nativity of Our Lord parish in Green Bay, Wisconsin.” McCollum represents the fourth district, which includes St. Paul and Stillwater.
  • Rep. Keith Ellison, Democrat, will be accompanied by his mother, Clida Ellison, a longtime Catholic. Congressman Ellison, a Muslim, attended Catholic school as a child. He represents the fifth district, which includes Minneapolis.
  • Rep. Tom Emmer, Republican, will bring three guests— Bishop Donald Kettler of the Diocese of St. Cloud; Michael Hemesath, president of St. John’s University, and Mary Hinton, president of the College of St. Benedict. Emmer is Catholic and a graduate of St. Thomas Academy in Mendota Heights. He is also the father of seven children; his fifth child was recently confirmed at the Cathedral of St. Paul. He represents the sixth district, which includes St. Cloud.
  • Rep. Collin Peterson, Democrat, gave his gallery tickets away to Illinois representative Dan Lipinski, who is Catholic. Peterson represents the seventh district, which includes Willmar, Alexandria and Thief River Falls.
  • Accompanying Rep. Rick Nolan is Father Tim Wenzel. Now retired, Father Wenzel served as director of Hispanic ministry for migrant workers in Minnesota’s Red River Valley from 1970 to 1985. In that position, he became deeply involved in the immigrant established education programs for migrant children. Later on, he worked with communities in Guatemala through mission trips that assisted with economic development and education projects. “Father Tim’s long service and dedication to the Hispanic community here in Minnesota will make his visit to Washington an especially significant occasion, since Pope Francis, of Argentina, is the first pontiff from the Americas,” Nolan said in a Sept. 19 statement. Nolan is Catholic and attended St. John’s University in Collegeville. He represents the eighth district, which includes Brainerd and Duluth.


  • Sen. Amy Klobuchar, Democrat, invited Tim Marx, president of Catholic Charities of St. Paul and Minneapolis. “From advocating for justice, to its work in addressing poverty and homelessness in our communities, Catholic Charities assists our neighbors in need – a spirit that defines us as Minnesotans,” Klobuchar said in a Sept. 21 statement. “I’m proud that the president of Catholic Charities, Tim Marx, will be my guest when Pope Francis addresses Congress. I look forward to welcoming Tim to our nation’s capital and to hearing Pope Francis’ message of serving those most in need.” Klobuchar is a Congregationalist.
  • Sen. Al Franken, Democrat, will be accompanied by Jacquelyn Bernard of Pine City. She is the mother-in-law of one of Franken’s state staff members and belongs to Immaculate Conception Church. Franken is Jewish.

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