Hoping for a holy visit

LIHUE — Hopeful.

That’s how Tootsie Sanchez feels about Pope Francis’ historic six-day visit to the Mainland.

Not just for herself. For the people of Kauai and for the world.

“The people of Kauai are pure goodness,” said the 65-year old who was diagnosed with an inoperable brain tumor more than five years ago. “It’s beautiful here. He would like to make it here, if only for a day.”

Sanchez attends Catholic church every day. When she’s not at St. William’s in Kilauea, she heads to St. Catherine’s in Kapaa and then every Saturday, she attends confessions at St. Sylvesters in Hanalei.

Sanchez believes the pope is uniting all people — even those of different religions.

Pope Francis, 78, arrived in Washington, D.C. Tuesday evening and began making public appearances Wednesday morning. His first speech was in the Rose Garden at the White House.

“There are many religions and only one God,” Sanchez said. “I think he’s proving that by saying to everyone, ‘Let’s all help each other.’”

But Kauai Community College carpentry student Casey Tangalin said if he saw Pope Francis walk right by him, he wouldn’t recognize him.

“I’ve never heard of the man,” Tangalin said.

Tangalin, of Kekaha, said he reads the Bible weekly, but doesn’t understand what all the fuss is about when it comes to Pope Francis.

“Who is he?” he asked.

Matt Fulmer, KCC digital media art professor, said Pope Francis’ visit is a blip on his radar, mainly because he’s non-religious. But he thinks it might be more of a big deal for those who are Catholic or religious.

Father Anthony Rapozo of St. Catherine’s church in Kapaa said his parish began prepping for the pope’s visit a year in advance.

Rapozo guessed about 200 people from Hawaii are headed to Philadelphia.

His parish bought travel packets, he said, and tried to put pilgrimages together to send groups of parishioners from Kauai to the City of Brotherly Love, where Pope Francis will address more than 1.5 million people during his papal Mass Sunday.

Even the children of St. Catherine’s school in Kapaa are excited about Pope Francis’ visit, Rapozo said. Sixth graders were watching live news feeds of the pope’s arrival in D.C. Depending on the teacher, classroom curriculum changes to coincide with what Pope Francis said in his mass that day, Rapozo said.

“They must have been excited,” he said. “He’s the head of the Catholic church.”

The pontiff wrapped up his Wednesday appearances with a celebration of the Mass of Canonization of Junipero Serra and then met with Native Americans at Basilica of the National Shrine of Immaculate Conception in Washington, D.C.

During his sermon on Sunday, Rapozo said it will be “impossible not to mention” to his parishioners that the pope is on the Mainland. He believes that one day, the pope might make his way to Hawaii, even though it might take some time.

“None of them have ever visited us,” he said. “It would be nice, but I don’t know that we are ever on anyone’s radar.”

Hanamaulu resident Christina Martiney said Francis’ visit “is a good thing” and might open the door to a possible visit to the Aloha State.

“It would be nice if he (visited Kauai),” she said. “A lot of Catholics would be happy … Hopefully, this will unify them.”

Cherie Efhan, 24, of Kapaa, wishes Pope Francis would stop on Kauai.

“Because then he could help the children,” she said. “And bring back Friday night lights, because that’s our tradition. ”

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