Papal visit has locals making travel arrangements

By Gary Scott on September 22, 2015 at 12:38pm

Pope Francis in Cuba

West Central Illinoisans are gearing up for the first visit to America from Pope Francis this week.

We talked to Father Charles Nelson, who served as a priest at Our Saviour Parish in Jacksonville from 1989 to 1991. The now-retired Nelson also served Catholic parishes in White Hall, Murrayville, Winchester and Bluffs, and says he’s seeing the Pope in Philadelphia this weekend.

Nelson, who is 79 years old, says it’ll be one of the highlights of his life.

“Maybe not be able to shake hands or anything with him, but you’re able to see the man that is forming what’s going on in our Church today. You want to be in communion with him as you are with our Lord every time we celebrate the Mass,” says Nelson.

“So, it’s indeed an honor to be able to say that you were with him in a certain situation.”

Nelson says he’s seen three Popes in person, including John Paul I and II, Benedict XVI, and now Pope Francis.

“The priests that are going, there are two of us going with the group, and they were singled out that they might be saying Mass with the Pope. Not any special [situation], but the priests that are there are usually invited to come celebrate Mass with him,” he says.

“I’ve been to Rome several times and being able to come celebrate Mass with each of the Popes.”

At least several others from our area are traveling to see the Pope this week, including former Routt Principal Sister Philip Neri Crawford, and WLDS-WEAI General Sales Manager Mark Whalen.