Disappointment was like a vise around Zsanic Carle’s heart as she packed up her two little girls and headed back to the hotel without seeing the pope.
It was a tough sacrifice for Carle, who said if Pope Francis had groupies, she would be one. The family had secured a spot right by the fence line and were waiting for the pontiff to come by during the Festival of Families when Carle noticed that her daughter, Kaylin, had a fever.
The two girls, Kaylin, 4, and Kyra, 15 months, had been troopers through the whole World Meeting of Families, but a sudden illness was taking its toll on her older child.
“It was such a tug to stay,” Carle said, “but she comes first.”
Prayers followed, and the next day, with no fever in sight, Kathy Schmugge and others in the diocesan group of travelers convinced the young mom to try again.
This time, they felt the blessing of God.
Nestled just a few feet from the barricade, Carle and her girls were in a crowd chanting loudly for the pope. As his open-air car passed slowly by, the pontiff looked their way and Carle said she felt their eyes meet.
“We actually got to see the Holy Father,” she said, awe still filling her voice. “Being that close to the vicar of Christ … was overwhelming!”
It was an overall, highly emotional trip for Carle, who scrimped and saved in order to attend with her daughters. Her husband Scott is not Catholic, and Carle said it was important to show them what it’s like to be part of such a large global family, praying and sharing together.
Kaylin led a rosary during the bus trip, and both girls were fascinated by the sisters in their religious habits, Carle said. That is an honest fascination, since their mother was once a religious sister herself.
Carle said she joined a religious community right out of high school but she and other sisters disagreed with the direction the order was taking and left.
“When I lost my sisters, I lost my family,” she said.
The birth of her first daughter helped revive her faith and bring her back to the Church. Then, at the World Meeting of Families, she ran into several former sisters. She said they cried, hugged and talked and she was left with a strong sense of healing and peace.
Carle said the conference was spectacular and she is still processing all she learned. She is especially grateful that her daughters participated in painting a mural for Pope Francis, which he then signed and blessed.