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Algona couples prepare for trip to Rome for canonizations

By KATIE LEFEBVRE, Globe staff reporter
(Email Katie)


April 27 will be a special day for the Catholic Church and for two couples from the Diocese of Sioux City who will witness the canonizations of Blessed John XXIII and Blessed John Paul II.

Daryl and Kathy Kohlhaas and Larry and Sandy Schneider, parishioners at St. Cecelia Church in Algona, will travel to Rome for the canonizations.

Daryl’s sisters had traveled to Rome in October 2012 for the canonization of Kateri Tekakwitha, the first Native American saint, so the Kohlhaases decided to try to go to Blessed John Paul II’s canonization.

“When two of our children were married last year, we decided it wasn’t feasible,” said Daryl, a high school mathematics and German teacher at Bishop Garrigan. “But our youngest daughter thought we should go, and supported by her siblings, secretly asked the community for help, noting our combined 75 years of teaching in the Bishop Garrigan school system.”

It was announced at a Sunday morning Mass and reception in early December that the couple was being sent to Rome.

Kathy, a 7th and 8th grade mathematics, literature and religion teacher in the Bishop Garrigan System, said it was “a very humbling surprise for us from the St. Cecelia community, Bishop Garrigan alumni, our extended families and most of all, our children, for which we are very grateful.”

Larry and Sandy will be on the same tour. They have been trying to get to Rome for the last three years, but it just hasn’t worked out, until now.

Since the Kohlhaases were going, the Schneiders decided this would be a good time to go.
“The fact the canonizations are happening is icing on the cake,” said Sandy.

Travel plans

The two couples will be traveling with St. Gemma Catholic Pilgrimage tours in a group of 30 to 35 people from all over the United States. The couples will arrive in Rome on the morning of April 26 and will be staying in a convent about a mile from the Vatican.

“On Divine Mercy Sunday, April 27, we are scheduled to walk to St. Peter’s Square at 3 a.m. in the hope that we can actually be at the canonizations at mid-morning,” said Daryl.

During the trip they will visit the Vatican Museum, Sistine Chapel, St. Peter’s Basilica and several other churches as well as other ancient sites. They will also attend the regular Wednesday papal audience at St. Peter’s. Another stop on their trip will be Assisi before arriving back in Minneapolis on May 2.

Sandy pointed out the couples will also have the opportunity to see other sites in Rome such as the Coliseum during their free time.

Preparation

The Kohlhaases have been praying a chaplet to St. Gemma each evening.

“The tour group leaders have asked us to consider this a pilgrimage, and we think that is very appropriate,” said Kathy. “We have read about the two soon-to-be recognized saints, renewing our acquaintance with them. We have also been reading about the special charisms of the individual churches in Rome that we may be able to visit.”

The two couples have discussed the trip and the things they hope to see and do in Rome.

“We have been doing a lot of praying,” said Sandy. “There are a lot of unknowns. You read all the things you have to be aware of. I am preparing spiritually to experience it the way God wants me to.”

She said she has “loved Pope John Paul II forever.” She didn’t know that much about Blessed John XXIII but she has been reading about him.

Anticipation

Daryl and Kathy are both looking forward to being at the canonizations of two popes with whom they feel special connections.

“We both were in elementary school when Blessed John XXIII was elected,” said Daryl. “We remember the surprise of his election, his warmth and humanity, and the bigger surprise of his calling for an ecumenical council. In high school, we studied the just-published Documents of Vatican II.”

When Blessed John Paul II came to Iowa, Daryl traveled with other St. Cecelia parishioners on a school bus to Living History Farms for the Papal Mass.

Later, when Blessed John Paul II visited Denver for World Youth Day, Daryl and Kathy volunteered to chaperone the Bishop Garrigan students whose trip was coordinated through the Diocese of Sioux City.

“Since the canonizations are happening while we are there, I can’t even put into words how excited I am to be there,” said Sandy. “Going to Rome is like a trip in a lifetime. To have a canonization happen, much less Pope John Paul II, is unbelievable how it worked out. I am so excited to be going.”

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