Rep. Lee Zeldin Wednesday surprised a visually impaired 10-year-old Bellport girl "in need of a miracle" with a ticket to be his guest when Pope Francis addresses Congress.
"I can't think of anyone better to invite than you," Zeldin (R-Shirley) told Louisa Nadia Lopez Taitt as they sat on a bench at her parish, St. Joseph the Worker Roman Catholic Church in East Patchogue.
Louisa will be Zeldin's guest when the 78-year-old pontiff addresses a joint session of Congress Sept. 24 during his trip to the United States. Her adoptive mother, Joan Taitt of Bellport, will receive a ticket from Zeldin to get onto the Capitol's west lawn to watch Francis arrive and watch a simulcast of the speech to Congress, Zeldin's office said.
Francis is making his first visit to the United States from Sept. 22 to 27. He will first visit Washington for his congressional address, then visit New York City from the evening of Sept. 24 to the morning of Sept. 26, when he departs for Philadelphia.
Louisa, a fifth-grade student at Frank P. Long Intermediate School, who says she prays "every night before I go to bed," calmly accepted Zeldin's gift.
"I'm a little excited," she said later.
She said she knows there will be a lot of people with her to see the pope, but said she couldn't "picture that in my head" the kind of man Francis is.
But if she gets a chance to meet the pope, Louisa said, "I will ask him, 'Can you help my vision get better?' "
Taitt, who was Louisa's grandaunt and raised her since she was 4, said an underdeveloped pituitary gland affected her vision from birth.
She only has peripheral vision, and doctors told the family she may lose her eyesight, Taitt said. She said doctors cannot explain her recent blackouts.
One of her prayers is for the "gray cloud" over eyes to go away.
Joan Taitt wiped a tear from eye when Zeldin told Louisa the news.
"I feel that maybe this will help her," said Taitt, who adopted Louisa two years ago.
Zeldin said he learned of Louisa and that she was "in need of a miracle" in an email from Louisa's priest at St. Joseph, the Rev. Martin Curtin.
Zeldin decided to give Louisa his extra ticket so she could get inside the Capitol chambers.
Zeldin said he didn't see anyone "more deserving, more fitting, more in need of that time with Pope Francis than . . . Louisa, who is in need of prayer and love of community."
Martin said he reached out to Zeldin after he learned Congress members received tickets for Francis' visit to Washington.
Joan Taitt had signed up for a raffle through the Diocese of Rockville Centre to get a ticket to see the papal Mass in Madison Square Garden on Sept. 25, a long shot.
"This is what you call grace," Curtin said.