Crown Point woman to join Pope Francis at World Youth Day in Panama

CROWN POINT, Ind. (WLS) -- A Crown Point, Indiana, woman was invited to join Pope Francis on stage this week for the Catholic Church's World Youth Day.

"Even if I'm just standing there praying in some way, it's a really big honor," said Vicky Hathaway, who was invited by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.

"I was crying at first because it was pretty emotional, it was kind of like a big deal for me," Hathaway said of the invite.

Hathaway, who is in her early 30s, will leave early Thursday for Panama with more than a dozen others from the Diocese of Gary. She doesn't know if she'll have a face-to-face meeting with Pope Francis. If she does, she said she will ask him to pray for her friends and family.

The Stations of the Cross are representations of the Passion of Christ and Jesus's Crucifixion. It's one of the major events at this year's World Youth Day, which brings together thousands of young Catholics from across the world about every three years. Hathaway has been twice before and calls it instrumental to her religion.

"I could see that church wasn't just my parish and wasn't just my diocese, but it was the world and was universal. ... So to be part of that and then to be asked to participate in it in some way was really, really moving for me," she said.

Another important part of Hathaway's faith is ministry. That's inspired her to do the same for other young Catholics, especially in times of scandal for the church.

"My call is now to help make the church what Christ intended it to be and to really stand up for the truth of church," Hathaway said.

That leadership made her stand out as an obvious choice for this week's honor.

"I love my diocese, small but mighty. ... I hope to represent the Diocese of Gary really well," Hathaway said.

World Youth Day runs Tuesday to Sunday.
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