‘People who went needed to be there’

One woman hoped to find peace in the wake of her son’s death 12 years ago.

Another had Rome on her "bucket list" of places to see and things to do.

A third loves to travel, help others and share the faith.

They were among 20 women – all admirers of Mother Teresa – who traveled together to Rome for her Sept. 4 canonization on a trip organized by Teresa Kopietz, a travel agent and member of St. Robert Bellarmine Parish in Omaha.

Others from the archdiocese who journeyed to Rome included Father Rodney Kneifl, pastor of Ss. Cyril and Methodius Parish in Clarkson and St. Mary Parish in Leigh, and Deacon Louis Dohmen and his wife, Doris. They were in the same group of pilgrims – including several others from the archdiocese – and the Dohmens went in part to celebrate their 40th wedding anniversary.

In the course of nine days they visited Rome, Florence and Venice, said Deacon Dohmen, who serves three parishes, St. Joseph in Platte Center, St. Michael in Tarnov and St. Stanislaus in Duncan.

"It was a great experience," Deacon Dohmen said, noting the universality of the church and the many priests at the canonization, as well as religious sisters and brothers.

Father Kneifl said Mother Teresa’s canonization means there is "another tremendous intercessor for the church and for those who do specialized ministry for the homeless and those who are destitute."

Kopietz described the experience she and the women in her group had as "spiritual and an experience words cannot describe." In addition to Rome, they visited Assisi and Siena.

Planning for their journey started in December, when Kopietz, who like Mother Teresa is named after St. Therese of Lisieux, let friends know she intended to make the trip. It was one way to honor her late mother, who looked up to Mother Teresa and raised nine children, including two with special needs, after separating from her husband, Kopietz said.

And as word spread about the trip, God acted, she said.

"It was God talking to people," Kopietz said. "People who went needed to be there."

That included Pamela Kocina-Kerzman, a member of Holy Cross Parish in Omaha and a long-time friend of Kopietz, and Debbie Marcil, youth ministry and religious education director at St. Robert Bellarmine.

Kocina-Kerzman said Mother Teresa’s canonization, prayerfully going up the 28 steps that Jesus is said to have taken on his way to Pontius Pilate (the steps were brought to Rome centuries ago from Jerusalem), and other events helped her find some peace, which had been elusive since the death in a traffic accident of her 18-year-old son, Nathan.

Others in the group also had suffered losses, such as the death of a spouse, and the trip brought some healing to each, Kocina-Kerzman said.

Marcil said visiting Rome had long been on her "bucket list" of important things to do, and the trip was spiritually rewarding and refreshing. Now, she can take some of the spirit of St. Teresa with her on mission trips and into other aspects of parish ministry, Marcil said.

"Sometimes you need to be filled up," she said. "It was amazing."

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