Local youths chosen by lottery to attend pope’s rally

Sean Hartnett, a senior at Notre Dame-Bishop Gibbons School in Schenectady, is one of 200 Capital Re

Sean Hartnett, a senior at Notre Dame-Bishop Gibbons School in Schenectady, is one of 200 Capital Region youths going to Yonkers on Saturday to see Pope Benedict XVI. “I was one of the lucky ones,” Hartnett said about winning a drawing at the Catholic high school in Schenectady.

“I’m just pumped to go,” Hartnett said. “I have my camera ready.”

Each school and parish in the Albany Roman Catholic Diocese was asked to hold a lottery drawing for those young people interested in attending a youth rally for the pope on Saturday at St. Joseph’s Seminary in the Dunwoodie neighborhood of Yonkers.

About six to eight youths from each school or parish in the diocese will be boarding buses shortly after 6 a.m. in Albany and heading to the rally.

The buses will return to Albany sometime Saturday night.

“He’s a wonderful man,” Hartnett said about the pope. “He’s the man who is the leader of my religion.”

“I’m looking forward to seeing or feeling the energy from the other kids my age,” Hartnett, a Rotterdam resident, said. “It’s something I will take with me all my life.”

Ken Goldfarb, a spokesman for the Albany Roman Catholic Diocese, said he understands as many as 25,000 high school and college students are expected at the rally at the historic seminary in the city of Yonkers, just north of Manhattan. He said these young people will come from throughout the United States.

“I’m really not sure how the whole thing will work,” said Jocelyn Peters, 17, a junior at Saratoga Springs High School.

“It’s going to be pretty cool to see the pope,” Peters said. “It’s a once in a lifetime deal.”

Peters is a member of the St. Clement’s Parish Youth Ministry, and it was at St. Clement’s that her name was drawn from a lottery.

“I want to take loads of pictures,” Peters said. She added that she hopes to get to know better the other people going to the rally from her church and region.

Each person going to the rally is given a free ticket but must pay $50 each for the bus trip.

A chaperone will be going down with the youths from each church and school.

“I think it’s a great honor,” said Debra Casagrande, 17, of Scotia. “I might come to appreciate it more when I’m older,” said the junior at Notre Dame-Bishop Gibbons.

“It’s a chance of a lifetime,” Casagrande said.

She said her father went to New York City to see the pope’s predecessor, Pope John Paul II, some years ago but was so far away from that pope that he could barely see him.

“I might be seeing this pope closer up,” Casagrande said.

St. Joseph’s Seminary was built in the late 1800s on top of a hill in Yonkers. It is the main seminary in the New York metropolitan area for Catholic men studying to become priests.

A large outdoor stage has been built on the seminary’s sprawling lawns where the pope will say Mass on Saturday.

The city of Yonkers has issued special road closures and traffic alerts to accommodate the huge throng of young people, according to the city’s Web site (www.cityofyonkers.com).

“The Yonkers Police Department has been working vigorously on the security plan which utilizes personnel, resources and equipment from multiple law enforcement agencies,” according to the Web site.

These police agencies include the Secret Service, the State Police, and Westchester County’s Department of Public Safety.

Categories: Schenectady County

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