Local Catholic hugs the pope

| September 24, 2015 | 0 Comments

How many people get to hug the pope?

Pope Francis and Mary Jo Copeland met during a private audience Sept. 24, along with Bishop Andrew Cozzens, who supplied this photo. Copeland gave him a copy of her biography, "Great Love: The Mary Jo Copeland Story."

Mary Jo Copeland of Sharing and Caring Hands in Minneapolis meets Pope Francis Sept. 24 during a private audience in Washington, D.C., that included Bishop Andrew Cozzens. Copeland gave the pope a copy of her biography, “Great Love: The Mary Jo Copeland Story.” Courtesy Bishop Andrew Cozzens

Mary Jo Copeland, founder of Sharing and Caring Hands in Minneapolis, got to do it not once, but twice during a private audience the afternoon of Sept. 24 at the Vatican Embassy in Washington, D.C.

Pope Francis met with and greeted 15 people, including Copeland, her husband, Dick, and Bishop Andrew Cozzens, who translated her message for the pope and even took a photo of her and the pope with his cell phone.

“His hug was like God hugging me because Jesus is in him and so alive,” Copeland said. “And, I told him I wanted him to pray for me because I’ve got a lot of work to do, and if he could come here to the Twin Cities, we can soak feet [of the poor] together and take care of all the kids [at Sharing and Caring Hands and Mary’s Place].”

Bishop Cozzens, who has become increasingly media savvy, saw an opportunity to capture the special moment between the Holy Father and Copeland, even though a Vatican photographer was doing the same nearby.

“I just wanted to get a quick photo, and it worked out,” Bishop Cozzens said. “He just seemed to be filled with love and wanted to express that love to the people he was meeting. He was very patient and took his time with each of us. It was really beautiful to see that. Mary Jo said, ‘Please pray for me that I can keep going.’ He said he would pray. It was beautiful.”

Copeland’s husband, Dick, was similarly moved. “It was just very special,” he said. “That was the best thing in the world, just top-notch. I’ll never be able to do that again.”

That might not necessarily be true. Mary Jo made it clear she wants the pope to visit her in the Twin Cities. And, people in the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis know well what this dynamic servant of the poor can make happen when she sets her mind to it.

“What I really want the world to know is what he [Pope Francis] knows: Pray, love, serve and forgive,” Mary Jo said. “I believe that’s his heart. And, that’s mine.”


Related: Papal surprise: Mary Jo Copeland to meet Pope Francis in Washington

More: Pope Francis in the United States

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