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Monsignor wins raffle trip for canonization ceremony

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On April 27, Popes John XXIII and John Paul II will be granted sainthood by Pope Francis. People from all over the country will crowd into St. Peter's square for the ceremony where between one and two million people are expected. Among the crowd an Austin area Monsignor from Our Lady's Maronite Catholic Parish.

He's going thanks to a raffle ticket for the seven day trip he bought. Monsignor Doctor Don Sawyer says now that lent, holy week and Easter are over he's able to enjoy what's about to happen.

Sawyer purchased a couple of the $100 tickets. The John Paul II Life Center organized the raffle with proceeds benefitting the center. Only 100 tickets were sold.

"I never win anything," said Monsignor Sawyer who didn't expect to win the trip when he bought the tickets. Although, he admits, the thought of a trip to Rome for the canonization ceremony sounded very nice.

"We pulled his name as a winner and people were so excited but he was actually on a silent retreat so we couldn't tell him right away," said Kimberly Guidry Speirs who serves as the Executive Director for the John Paul II Life Center in Austin.

"I found out about a month ago and I had to contain myself," explained Monsignor Sawyer. He says the trip includes tours of different churches. In 1999 he went to Rome for four days and took in a papal audience but has never been to a ceremony like the one which is planned.

"I don't know what to expect I don't think I'll get to meet Pope Francis but it will be exciting," said Monsignor Saywer. As if the trip wasn't exciting enough the canonization ceremony falls on a milestone for Sawyer. Sunday marks the 40th anniversary since he was ordained as a priest.

"I'm a native Austinite and was ordained on April 27, 1974. I'm telling my age but Sunday is my 40th anniversary," Monsignor Sawyer said smiling.

"It was sort of providential that he won the trip and would be going. Some people made the comment that it was kind of like God's anniversary present to Monsignor Sawyer for becoming a priest 40 years ago," said Guidry Speirs with the life center.

Monsignor Sawyer says he never expected to win a trip much less one like this.

"Some will think the stars lined up but God is good and God gives us surprises. I couldn't even plan something that way," said Monsignor Sawyer.

The trip is valued at around $11,000. Monsignor Sawyer leaves early Thursday morning.

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