She hasn’t taken many personal days since arriving on campus 14 months ago. But this week’s quick trip to Washington, D.C., will be as personal as they get for Dr. Mirta M. Martin.
Martin, in her second year as Fort Hays State University’s ninth president, is going to see the Pope.
Martin, a devout Catholic, is looking forward to what she calls “every Catholic’s dream.”
“It’s every Catholic’s pilgrimage to see the Pope, so I’m taking a couple of personal days and going,” Martin said. “This is especially meaningful to me because this is the first Hispanic pope.”
The native tongue of Pope Francis, born and raised in Argentina, is Spanish. Martin, a native of Cuba, not only is the first female president at FHSU but also is the first Hispanic president in the Kansas Board of Regents system.
“If I get to speak to him, it would be in Spanish,” said Martin, who speaks Spanish, one of seven languages she knows.
If she gets the chance, Martin has more in mind than just speaking to the Pope.
Martin will be carrying photos of her two children, 25-year-old Katherine and 22-year-old Patrick and plans to ask Pope Francis to especially pray for her daughter.
Katherine, a doctoral student at the University of Miami, suffers from chronic pain disease stemming from a fall during a gymnastics routine 10 years ago. She broke her back during the fall, and while she recovered from her injuries, she still suffers from nerve damage from the impact.
“Katherine lives each and every day with seven out of 10 level of pain, which she manages through medicine,” Martin said. “But she suffers. My prayer to the Holy Father is to join me in asking for healing for her and for all others who, like her, suffer daily.
“I believe in the power of prayer,” Martin added, “and if I get to speak to the Pope, I’m going to ask him to pray for Katherine to be healed and to pray for peace.”
Martin left Wednesday morning for Kansas City, where she will flew to Washington for a short night, filled with anticipation akin to Christmas.
By 4 a.m. today, Martin planned to be standing in line for a place on the West Terrace lawn of the White House.
“I understand there will be a few chairs, and the rest is standing room,” she said. “I don’t care if I’m standing on my head if I get to see Him.”
Martin received an invitation from U.S. Representatives Tim Huelskamp and Lynn Jenkins to attend the event a couple of weeks ago, and it didn’t take her long to start making plans for the trip.
“I thought I’d died and gone to Heaven,” she said.
Pope Francis, just the third pope to visit the White House, is scheduled to deliver an address to Congress.
“Then, he’s supposed to come out on the balcony and bless the people,” said Martin, who expects more.
“If it’s like what he’s done before, I won’t be surprised if he comes down among the people,” she said.
While Martin is unsure of a lot of the proceedings, there is no question what she will be wearing.
“Black and gold,” she said with a big smile.
Martin said she is looking forward to this particular trip like no other.
“It’s a pilgrimage to fill my soul with faith, inspiration and discernment to guide the Fort Hays State University family in these, our new beginnings,” she said. “There is a resurgence of enthusiasm on campus, and I’m thankful for that. This pilgrimage will recharge my batteries to continue to lead this university, and I have great faith that when two or more are gathered in His name, God hears our prayers.”