Minneapolis 'urban saint' gets private meeting with Pope Francis in Washington, D.C.


You might think you wouldn't be able to top meeting President Obama at the White House, but for a Minnesota woman who has spent the last 30 years on a mission of faith, coming face to face with the pope will be a lifetime achievement.

Mary Jo Copeland is the founder of Sharing and Caring Hands, a Minneapolis organization that provides food, clothing and shelter to the needy. Since its establishment as a humble non-profit in 1985, the service has grown to include multiple facilities in the downtown area, helping 20,000 people every month, its website says.

The 73-year-old has come to be known as a "street mother" to many, and an "urban saint" to local officials for her work with the poor, according to her biography.

Copeland has been invited to Washington, D.C., to meet Pope Francis, who will be touring the U.S. next week, the Catholic Spirit reports.

The website says the opportunity comes as a result of letters both she and Auxiliary Bishop Andrew Cozzens (of the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis) wrote to the pontiff, requesting to meet His Holiness.

However, Copeland told WCCO she believes her work with Sharing and Caring Hands is why the pontiff wanted to see her, saying "I think (it's) because of my love for the poor...(the pope's) heart is with loving and helping people who are poor, disenfranchised."

Planning for the pope

She also told the station that she's planned out what she's going to stay to Pope Francis when she meets him – "thank you for teaching the world to love"; she says she will also ask for the pope's prayers so she can continue her work with the needy.

In 2013, President Obama awarded Copeland the Presidential Citizens Medal of Honor, the second-highest honor a civilian can receive.

FOX 9 says she'll have a private meeting with the pontiff next Thursday at the Vatican Embassy in Washington.

And she won't be the only Minnesotan who gets to meet Pope Francis. Rochester Mayor Ardell Brede and "much-loved" north-central Minnesota priest Father Tim Wenzel will also greet His Holiness in Washington next week.

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