Well before the sun comes up on Sunday, April 27, Carol Pacione expects to be in front of the television to watch the canonization of Popes John Paul II and John XXIII. The Mass, presided over by Pope Francis, will be aired live from Rome, beginning at 3:30 a.m.
The day has special significance for Pacione, pastoral life director at St. Pius X Catholic Church in Rodgers Forge. She served on the team organizing Pope John Paul's Baltimore visit in October 1995. And, she was one of the last Baltimoreans the pontiff greeted as his 10-hour visit came to a close.
The meeting, though it lasted only a moment, touched Pacione deeply.
"It's very cool to say I've met a saint," she said.
"I know it's a day people still talk about," she said. "It's indelible."
Mementos she and her husband Mark Pacione have saved from that day are on loan to the Basilica of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary for an exhibition set to open Thursday, April 24, in the basilica's museum.
Pacione recalled the good feelings, the good works that occurred because Pope John Paul II came to Baltimore. She was also struck by the pope's humility and his focus on others — in spite of his own exalted state as head of a church and head of state.
"The Holy Father was the catalyst for good ministry to happen," she said.
During her tenure with the papal visit committee, Pacione was she was impressed by the outpouring of support from far beyond the Catholic community. "What a cool experience of what church can be," she said.
Pacione, of Fallston, was serving as director of family life for the Archdiocese of Baltimore when she was asked to take on the job of arranging credentials for some 15,000 people, mostly volunteers, who would staff the various venues the pope would visit. These included Oriole Park at Camden Yards, the Basilica of the Assumption, Our Daily Bread soup kitchen, the Cathedral of Mary Our Queen and St. Mary's Seminary and University.
Her husband, now director of research and planning for the Archdiocese of Baltimore and also a St. Pius X parishioner, produced the three-hour celebration — with music, videos, dance and other activities — held in the stadium before the papal Mass.
"We kept everybody entertained as best we could," Mark Pacione said.
Then the archdiocesan director of youth and young adult ministry, he had previously organized the vigil held the night before Pope John Paul II celebrated Mass for World Youth Day in Denver in 1993.
"It was an honor to do those two events for him," he said.
Work on the papal visit began in January 1995, Carol Pacione said, recalling long hours spent in the papal visit headquarters in the Columbus Center, being built at the time at the Inner Harbor. "It was like one great big warehouse room," she said.
She was charged to create credentials that would serve not only as identification for security purposes, she said, but as mementos of the papal visit.
Security concerns were heightened after the April 1995 bombing of the federal building in Oklahoma City, Pacione recalled.
"The Secret Service got a lot tighter with what we could do or not do," she said. "The temperature in the room changed."
Pacione praised the expertise of the youth minister who worked with her, Paul Raspa, now with the Oregon Catholic Press.
Demand for credentials — and people's desire to volunteer with the papal visit team — was extraordinary, Carol Pacione said.