The Chaplain of Catholic High School Chester, Ana Gasparini, is set to meet with Pope Francis in an unprecedented and unexpected visit this half-term break.
To mark the occasion the dedicated Chaplin, has worked alongside dozens of students at the Handbridge-based high school to create a banner to present to the Head of the Catholic Church during her visit to Italy next week (October 24th & 25th).
Ana, who is from Argentina but lives in Chester, was due to meet with her family in Rome for the October Half Term. After learning about their plans, an acquaintance from their family parish in Argentina reached out to her personal friend, Monsignor Guillermo Karcher, who serves as the Pope’s Pontifical Usher.
Monsignor Karcher generously offered to arrange a special audience with Pope Francis for Ana and her family during the Wednesday audience in Vatican City (Wednesday, October 25). The Pontifical Usher confirmed the tickets for Ana’s family and relatives, a “truly unexpected and profound experience”, said Ana.
She added: “I feel completely blessed having the opportunity to meet the head of the Catholic Church in person. Working as a Chaplain makes this visit even more relevant. I would very much love to talk to Pope Francis about our school and the work with do as a response to his encyclical letters Laudato Si and Fratelli Tutti.
Ana commented: “Both Pope Francis and Monsignor Guillermo Karcher are fellow Argentinians. We will have the chance to speak in Spanish; this will remind me where I come from, which is a nice feeling. I am sure football will come into conversation at one point too!”
The family, consisting of ten members, will meet with Monsignor Karcher on Tuesday, October 24, at Piazza del Popolo, to receive the tickets and have the opportunity to chat over coffee and it will be here she will present a banner from the Catholic High School Chester to Monsignor Karcher to share with Pope Francis.
Explaining her journey to this momentous day, Ana said: “My dad has always been involved in the Church where he has been part of many groups, with the purpose of helping the poor, the sick, prisoners, as well as groups of prayer and liturgy. Dad also took different ministries in the church. Inspired by all my dad’s work, I have always been involved in the Church since my arrival in the UK about two decades ago.”
After relocating to the North West, she actively engaged in her local parish of St Luke’s, taking on various responsibilities such as becoming a Eucharistic Minister and contributing to the Confirmation Program. She and her husband, along with another couple from the parish, founded a Youth Group and Ana’s experiences eventually led her to the role of Parish Secretary at St. Luke’s Church.
During the pandemic, the opportunity to become the school’s Chaplain was presented, and Ana was chosen for the position in 2020. She now supports students, staff, and members of the community through a variety of circumstances and is a valued member of the school family.
Headteacher Cathy McKeagney said: “This encounter with Pope Francis is a culmination of Ana’s lifelong dedication to her faith and service to the Catholic community. She represents the spirit of faith and service that resonates deeply within Catholic High School Chester and we are wishing her all the best for the special day.”