Sign In | Create an Account | Welcome, . My Account | Logout | Subscribe | Submit News | Contact Us | All Access E-Edition | Home RSS

Former Fort Dodgers get papal blessing for anniversary

June 22, 2008
By SANDY MICKELSON, Messenger staff writer
Anniversary celebrations vary from doing nothing to card showers to family parties or an open house for family and friends.

Then, there are those who decide to do it right when a special anniversary rolls around. Case in point — Paul and Linda Stevens, son and daughter-in-law of Walt and Ruth Stevens, of Fort Dodge.

They went to Italy for the big day, meeting his brother and wife, David and Cheryl Stevens, for part of the trip.

But forget the Coliseum and the Forum — that’s the center of ancient Rome — because Paul and Linda’s biggest kick in Rome came at the Vatican, where they not only saw Pope Benedict XVI, but received an audience with him and a papal blessing from him.

An e-mail Paul sent home to his parents and his kids read, in part, “Today, we were at the Vatican for Pope Benedict’s weekly audience and got a front row seat and a few private moments to speak with him. Mom told him that we are celebrating our 40th wedding anniversary and he blessed us. He also gave us a papal rosary. All of this was recorded on Italy TV.”

He also said they liked their hotel and were “awed” with what they had seen already.

“We had a great dinner last night with the AP Rome bureau chief Victor Simpson and his wife Daniella, who were the ones who got us onto the front row today. We owe them! For the record, I have not lost anything yet and have not gotten lost yet, so you can tell Mom is riding herd very well on me. The food has been wonderful and we have had a geleto every day.”

OK, how could they miss? They were in Rome, where the food MUST be outrageously good — it’s Italian, for pity sake. They got to eat Italian ice cream every day, which could hurt nothing since they likely walked around enough to burn off the calories. And they got to talk to the pope, who gave them a rosary. That’s worth a trip, right there.

Walt Stevens said getting the rosary isn’t so unusual — that he got one during World War II.

“I mean, it’s great,” Walt said, “but what was unusual was he took the time to visit with them and that he gave them a papal blessing.”

Paul, a graduate of the University of Iowa, is Central United States vice president of the Associated Press, which is how he knew the guy in Rome who got them in the front row to even get near the pope. Linda graduated in one of the first nursing school classes at Iowa Central Community College and is a contract manager for Aetna Insurance Co. in Kansas City, Mo. They live in Lenexa, Kan., a suburb of Kansas City.

David and Cheryl live in Chapel Hill, N.C.

It’s incredible, don’t you think, that such a wonderful thing could happen just because you’re in the right place at the right time. Sure, they got a little help getting to that right place, but with a huge line of people in the front row, the pope didn’t have to pick them out for a conversation.

Such is life — the good life for a good Catholic family.

Oh, that reminds me. When I wrote about the Homer United Methodist Church closing its doors for good at a 9:30 a.m. service today, I, for some reason, failed to tell you that the little church has 25 members, but only about 10 of them worship on any given Sunday.

No matter the size of the congregation, though — from as small as the Homer church to as large as the millions of Catholics throughout the world — faith is an important part of life.

May your God bless you in all you do.

So long friends, until the next time when we’re together.

Contact Sandy Mickelson at (515) 573-2141 or


I am looking for: