'I Will Be Very Close to the Pope'

The Metro system was swollen with people coming to the mass long before sunrise. Mark and Gayle Wozar and their sons, Michael and Andrew, rode in on the Green Line from College Park.

"This is a once-in-a-lifetime event for my family," said Mark Wozar, a lifelong Catholic, who planned to be in the audience

Saulo Vicente, a 25-year old seminarian in the Archdiocese of Washington, would have a larger role. A native of Brazil, Vicente was chosen to hold the microphone for Pope Benedict as he delivers the mass. "I am very excited," he said. "I will be very close to the Pope."

Thomacena Nelson will also be part of the ceremony. She’s a top gospel singer in her parish, St. Martin’s, and today she will be singing for the Pope. Nelson, who is African-American, said it is important that the Pope and those visiting Washington be exposed to the city’s rich culture and gospel tradition.

“I am more excited than nervous,” Nelson said. “I feel blessed just to take in the event.”

Linda Clark-Speight didn’t have a ticket but was intent on getting in. She uses two canes because of arthritis in her legs. But the 59-year-old D.C. school teacher worked the crowd, walking up to priests and dignitaries just she did on a previous papal visit in 1979, successfully.

“I really want to be part of history,” Clark-Speight said. “I really want to share this with my students."

At last sighting, Clark-Speight walked to a group of priests and disappeared into the crowd.

--- Hamil R. Harris

By David Marino-Nachison |  April 17, 2008; 8:51 AM ET
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