Papal blessing more meaningful still

PJ and Randy Adair are greeted by Pope John Paul II at the Vatican on June 10, 1998.

by Carolyn Kaberline
Special to The Leaven

June has long been considered the month for marriages, and that’s just what it was for Randy and Paula Jean, or “PJ,” Adair. However, even more special than their wedding at Holy Name Church in Topeka on June 5, 1998, was a blessing by Pope John Paul II just a few days later.

When PJ told her employer Larry Welch, then-director of the Kansas Bureau of Investigation, shortly after the first of that year about her upcoming wedding, he told her he had a good friend who might be able to get them a special marriage blessing by the pope if she’d like.

It turns out that Welch’s friend was Msgr. Vince Krische, who began making the arrangements for the couple, who had already planned to visit Rome on their honeymoon.

Those arrangements, begun in February of that year, first required a background investigation of the couple. And PJ’s sister, Sister Diana Seago, of the Benedictine Sisters in Atchison, crocheted a shawl for her to cover her shoulders that her wedding dress left bare, since they were wearing their wedding finery to the audience.

With their preparations made, the couple arrived in Vatican City on June 10, five days after their wedding. There they met Archbishop James P. Keleher, then-archbishop of the Archdiocese of Kansas City in Kansas, who was there for his “ad limina” visit.

“It was hard to believe you could meet someone else from Kansas in Rome,” said PJ.

After receiving their security passes, the couple was ushered into an area full of other couples from around the world, hoping to meet the pope and receive a nuptial blessing.

The group was first told that Pope John Paul II might not appear that day due to the death of one of his secretaries, or, if he did appear, he might not receive them individually.

But, the pope did appear and after the service, a cardinal came over and gave them final instructions: “Don’t start a conversation, don’t genuflect, just kiss his ring and move on.”

“He did bless each of us, and let us kiss his ring,” PJ said. “We were the escorted to the Vatican offices where we received gifts. I was given a rosary, and Randy, a key chain.”

PJ considered the whole experience “mind-boggling,” while her husband thought it “was next to a miracle, since I was a convert in April of that year. It was a culmination of our faith journey.”

But neither expected what was to come only 16 years later, when the pope who had blessed them was canonized by Pope Francis on April 27, 2014.

“We expected to kiss the ring of a pope,” said PJ, “but we got to kiss the ring of a saint instead.”

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