Some day little Theresa Freeh will realize what a special little girl she was on that Wednesday when Pope Francis kissed her.
She was among 800,000 people crowding the Vatican in the center of Rome during the sainthood ceremonies recently where two former popes were canonized.
Theresa was born in Lander back in 2012 to Professor John Freeh and his wife Helen. Most recently the Freeh’s have been working in Santa Fe but he will be returning this fall to the faculty of Wyoming Catholic College.
Here is John’s version of what happened:
“Greetings from Assisi, and thanks so much for your help during our pilgrimage to Italy for Easter and the Canonization of Sts. John XXIII and John Paul II.
“We have yet to fully comprehend the blessings of this trip, the highlight of which was the papal audience in St. Peter's square. There were great crowds still in Rome that had come for Sunday's historic event that has been called the day of the four popes: Francis and Benedict honoring their holy predecessors, and all the Church.
“I arrived at the square shortly after 7 a.m., but found the lines for the 10:30 audience already long. After passing through security, the crowd rushed to fill the seats in the front section. Whether through divine inspiration or human laziness, I held back, and sat instead in the second–to-last row of the section, staking out three seats and hoping my wife Helen and daughter Theresa would be able to work their way there later. They did, thanks to a sympathetic Swiss guard who let them into the piazza about 9 a.m., after the entryways had been closed.
“I had with me an invitation for Pope Francis to visit the city of Santa Fe (whose full name is, in English, the City of the Holy Faith of St. Francis of Assisi).
“Just before the audience, the Popemobile with a smiling Francis turned into the passageway behind where we were sitting. I grabbed our daughter and the invitation as Helen readied the camera. I held our daughter high as the Pope passed. A plainclothes' Swiss guard swept Theresa from me, presenting her to the Holy Father to be kissed, while I handed the invite to one of those who rode behind the Pope.
“Our daughter was then returned to her stunned and wildly grateful parents. It gets no better in this vale terrestrial. God is good.”
If the name Freeh sounds familiar, it is because John is the younger brother of Louis Freeh, the former head of the FBI.
It will be wonderful to have the Freeh family back in Wyoming. They were in Lander for a couple of years and then spent a year in Orange County, California and then some time in Santa Fe.
Not sure they missed the vast distances of Wyoming, but another prominent Wyoming Catholic knows just how big the state can be.
Bishop Paul Etienne of Cheyenne was in St. Stephens recently conducting confirmation services for about 40 young people from all over Fremont County.
He insisted that he was not complaining, but “this really is a big state.” One of his main duties is traveling the state each year for the annual confirmation rites and that involves putting a lot of miles on his car.
Although not objecting to the size of the state, he did complain about the wind. “Wind is pretty normal in Cheyenne,” he said, “but the whole state has been like a hurricane this year. Is that normal?” he asked, having been assigned here four years ago from Indiana.
Perhaps it is the new normal.
Nancy and I took a trip to Door County, WI, last fall in our motorhome and had a chance to visit with Bishop Etienne’s predecessor, Bishop David Ricken, who is the bishop of Green Bay now.
His new diocese is a fraction of the size of Wyoming but has eight times as many people. And, yes, he keeps mighty busy traveling the area. He said he misses Wyoming and especially the people. “I must admit I do not miss the vast distances and the wind.”
Bishop Ricken conducted the Mass that morning on the day of a Packers game. I accused him of purposely doing a short sermon, to which he said it was about the right length. No way could he have done a long one on that day for the impatient Packer football fans, he laughed.
Check out Bill Sniffin’s columns at www.billsniffin.com. He is a longtime Wyoming journalist from Lander who has written four books. His most recent book is “Wyoming’s 7 Greatest Natural Wonders” which is available at www.wyomingwonders.com.