In perhaps the most heaven-sent of invitations, Sister Margaret Smyth of the North Fork Spanish Apostolate has been asked to hear the Pope speak during his first-ever visit to the United States next week.
And, Sister Margaret, who spends her life helping those in need in God’s name, couldn’t be more excited by the honor.
“I’m extremely thrilled,” she said today.
Sister Margaret was invited by Senator Kirsten Gillibrand to be among those selected to listen to the Pope as he addresses elected officials in the gallery of Congress, and will be flying to Washington, D.C. on Wednesday night.
Pope Francis begins his United States visit on Tuesday, and will visit Washington, D.C., Philadelphia, and New York City.
The visit has sparked a media frenzy, with reports of “Pope Mania” sweeping the region and merchants revving up to meet escalating demands for Pope-related souvenirs.
But for those of deep faith, the visit is once-in-a-lifetime chance to hear the voice and wisdom of Pope Francis, dubbed “the people’s pope” for his humble nature and concern for all mankind.
“I’m very excited to hear as the Pope calls us, as human beings, with all that’s going on in this world — to hear what he says to all of our nation’s leaders. He’s calling on us all to take a look at how people are living and dying. He speaks about social justice and how we have to be responsible for each other. We are brothers and sisters, and I want to hear how the Pope calls us to take a look at all this, too,” she said.
Sister Margaret will be at the Senate building at 9 a.m. on Thursday and then will be escorted over to the gallery with all the others who received invitations.
“I’m so grateful to have this opportunity and that I was chosen by her office to be able to participate in this,” Sister Margaret said.
Pope Francis, Sister Margaret said, has made a profound impact on mankind, for people of all beliefs and faiths.
“He’s certainly stirring up the world,” she said. “He’s like a breath of fresh air. He really means what he says and he puts it into practice. He lives it.”
The Pope, she added, “calls on all of us, to take a look at how we’re living our lives. It doesn’t matter if you’re Catholic or not, it matters if we are people of justice, of compassion. That kind of attitude is so important; it speaks to all people.”
Sister Margaret, however, won’t be taking any selfies with the Pope; she’ll be asked to leave all of her belongings in Senator Gillibrand’s office before heading to the gallery, where security will be amped up.
It’s not the first time she’s attended an event during a papal visit. “Years ago, I was in Madison Square garden with Pope John Paul,” she said. “It was wonderful. Very exciting, and so many young people.”
Sister Margaret isn’t the only North Fork resident blessed with the chance to see the Pope next week. Greenport business owner Sharon Sailor won her chance in a raffle and will see the Pope in New York City; many elected officials offered opportunities to residents to throw their names into the hat through local media outlets.
Hearing the news that she’d been chosen to make another journey of faith managed to spark butterflies in the normally unflappable nun who solves the problems of scores in the community on an everyday basis: “I couldn’t even believe it when they called me,” she said. “It overwhelmed me so much that I said, ‘I’ll have to call you back. I have to check my calendar.’ I thought to myself, ‘Why the heck did I say that?'” She laughed. “I just never expected this. “It’s very thrilling.”