The trip will be a bit quicker than he would like.
But J. Basil Dannebohm is going to soak up everything he possibly can in a mere 24 hours.
The Hays man is one of three local people who will be flying eastward to greet Pope Francis as he makes his way to the U.S. this week.
Dannebohm will be joined on the flight by Fort Hays State University President Mirta Martin and Donetta Robben of Divine Mercy Radio.
“What we are going to experience in 24 hours is enough to leave one speechless,” Dannebohm said.
The three were invited by Reps. Tim Huelskamp and Lynn Jenkins, both R-Kan., to be part of a select group attending the pope’s visit to the U.S.
Pope Francis will deliver a speech to Congress on Thursday, his first address to a joint session of Congress as well as his first trip to the U.S.
“As a Catholic, an American and a congressman, I am excited for Pope Francis’ upcoming historic visit to America and his address to Congress,” Huelskamp said in a statement. “I am honored to welcome Dr. Martin and the Robbens to Washington, D.C., to witness what I hope will be an inspiring articulation of Catholic social teaching, especially the evil of abortion, defending traditional marriage and families, and protecting religious liberties.”
Dannebohm said he’s more than excited to make the trip.
“It’s my understanding that the speaker’s office and the invitation with the congressional seal is described as frame-worthy, and this one is,” he said. “It’s frame-worthy for a personal memory, as well as for the country’s history and his first visit.”
The group will leave Wednesday afternoon for the nation’s capital, and arrive back in Hays about 6 p.m. Thursday.
Dannebohm said they will be up early — at approximately 5 a.m. Thursday — to head to the venue of the pope’s visit. He and Martin will be in the seated section on the West Terrace, and Robben will be in the standing section.
He said if the pope walks outside, they will be within reaching distance of the Holy Father.
“If he comes out on the West like they expect him to do, it will put us within handshake distance of him,” Dannebohm said of his and Martin’s position.
While he knows the significance of the trip for him personally is huge, he’s also interested in what the pope’s visit means for the country.
“It’s a rare opportunity to say you’re making a pilgrimage to Washington,” he said. “Those two usually don’t go together. I’m overcome with great humility to have the opportunity. … We need to take with us the prayers of those around us and specifically those from northwest Kansas. It’s to be a spiritual event.
“If we get a chance to shake his hand … that’s when the direct contact of all those prayers will touch the Holy Father.”
Nick Schwien is managing editor at The Hays Daily News.