Local Catholics attend White House reception for Pope Benedict
By Sam Lucero
GREEN BAY -- When Deacon Everett Doxtator of St. Joseph Parish in Oneida received an e-mail April 3 inviting him to a White House reception for Pope Benedict XVI on April 16, he thought it was a belated April Fools joke.
The e-mail, he said, was from the White House and it invited him to attend a formal welcome for Pope Benedict on the South Lawn of the White House given by President George W. and Laura Bush.
His invitation to the papal reception wasn't a prank, since Deacon Doxtator sits on the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops' National Advisory Council. It was his council membership that led to the invitation, which he saw as a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.
"It's nice to get the invitation," he said in an interview with The Compass April 9. "I go out on Monday and come back Thursday." He was to stay at a hotel in nearby Alexandria, Va., as hotels in the District of Columbia averaged $500 a night, he said.
"I imagine a lot of people will be there," Deacon Doxtator said. "I hope to get a chance to shake hands with (the pope). I won't know until I get out there what we can and can't do. It would be nice to get a picture with him, too, but the chances of that are kind of slim."
Deacon Doxtator was one of several members of the Green Bay Diocese attending the formal welcoming ceremony held on Wednesday. Others included:
- Karen Johnston, director of Catholic Charities, was invited by Catholic Charities USA to attend the White House event. She was already in Washington for a gathering of Catholic Charities directors. Johnston also planned to attend the papal Mass at Nationals Stadium on April 17.
- Norbertine Fr. James Baraniak, pastor of Old St. Joseph Parish located at St. Norbert College, attended as a guest of former Wisconsin Assemblyman John Gard. The former legislator and his wife were invited by the White House, along with a dozen guests of their choosing. "Fr. Jim was an easy choice because of our eight-year friendship as well as his deep faith and his love for the Catholic Church," said Gard.
Deacon Doxtator was appointed to the bishops' advisory council in 2006 by Bishop David A. Zubik, who also joined the council in 2006. His membership on the council is for four years.
The National Advisory Council is a 63-member body which meets semi-annually to review documentation and offer recommendations concerning matters before the USCCB.
"The council meets a couple months prior to (the U.S. bishops' general) meeting," said the deacon. "To get picked was a great honor."
One of the benefits of serving on the advisory council, said Deacon Doxtator, is experiencing the church on a national level. "It's impressive, looking at it from the standpoint of a bigger church. You recognize you have a bigger part in it, and what you have to say makes a difference. You see that the bishops are listening to what goes on around the country.
"When you're in a small parish, you get wrapped up in your own things," he added. "Then to realize how much bigger it is, we're part of a bigger church."