.- Over 1,000 Americans are arriving in Rome for the elevation of Archbishop Timothy Dolan of New York to the College of Cardinals. But few know him better or love him more than his sister, Debbie Williams.
Williams described Feb. 17 how “wonderful” it has been to travel to Rome for her brother’s elevation on Saturday.
“It’s a little hard to comprehend when it’s your brother, and that’s who he is to us first and foremost, our brother, but we certainly realize the importance of all of this. For us it is just a great family reunion and a chance to share in his honor and his joy.”
“We’re ecstatic. It’s exciting,” Williams told CNA.
She is in Rome this weekend with her husband Fred and another 20 or so immediate Dolan family members. That includes the archbishop’s other sister, his two brothers and their 83-year-old mother Shirley.
“My mom is great. She’s kind of laying low today so she’s ready for the big day tomorrow. She just had a little jet lag yesterday, so she stayed behind today and rested,” Williams said.
This morning Cardinal-designate Dolan was addressing his fellow cardinals-in-waiting as part of a day of a day of reflection and prayer at the Vatican, which was presided over by Pope Benedict. Meanwhile, the rest of the Dolan family took to the sunny streets of Rome for a day of sightseeing.
Williams said her brother has always been a “family man first and foremost.” She summed him up as “happy, joyful, just (a) great personality.” She is confident her brother’s elevation to the College of Cardinals means that “there will be someone as a spokesman for the Church who is down to earth and can relate to people and hopefully let everyone see a better face of the Church.”
The Dolan family grew up in Ballwin, Mo. – a western suburb of St. Louis – where they attended Holy Infant parish. Their late father, Robert, was an aircraft engineer with the St. Louis firm McDonnell Douglas.
When she was asked if she ever imagined her big brother would be a Prince of the Church, Williams said, “in some ways, no, because it’s just so big, you know.
“But it doesn’t surprise me either because he is definitely cut out for what he does. So we are not shocked – but it is hard to imagine.”
After being ordained a priest in 1976, Fr. Timothy Dolan spent several years at churches in the St. Louis area. Many of his former parishioners have also made the pilgrimage to Rome for this weekend’s consistory.
“Archbishop Dolan is a friend of the family from his days at Little Flower Church in St. Louis,” 39-year-old attorney Mark Mueller explained to CNA.
“He’s just a big teddy bear, stands by his principles, and is everything good you’d want in a Catholic bishop or cardinal.”