WASHINGTON - Lori Brown keeps the winning ticket voucher in her purse as a good luck charm, and tells practically everyone she runs into about it.
"It's ridiculous," said Brown, a mother of two from Laurel, Md., recalling how excited she was when her raffle ticket won her a seat at the April Mass that Pope Benedict XVI will celebrate in Washington. "I'm just so out of my skin jumping for joy with this."
Brown is one of tens of thousands of people eagerly awaiting the first visit by a pope to Washington since 1979. The Archdiocese of Washington is distributing about 46,000 tickets for the event, and has set aside 14,000 seats for Catholic dioceses nationwide, archdiocese spokeswoman Susan Gibbs said.
Of those, the biggest share of tickets - 6,000 - will go to the Diocese of Arlington in northern Virginia. The Archdiocese of Baltimore is receiving 2,500. On Friday, the Archdiocese of Washington plans to announce the ticket allocation for its own 140 parishes, which will be based on the size of each parish's Mass attendance and whether it has a school or significant religious education program, Gibbs said.
After that, it's up to each parish to decide how to distribute the tickets.
The Rev. Terry Specht of Holy Spirit Church in Annandale, Va., said the church has been collecting names for a month and plans to give away the tickets through a lottery.
"That's how most of the parishes are doing it ... finding out who's interested in going, and then letting the Lord decide," he said.
Those unable to get tickets for the April 17 Mass at the Washington Nationals' new ballpark might be able to see the pope as he travels through the city, although his routes are still being determined, Gibbs said Thursday.
That was what Kevin Gilbert, of Rockville, Md., planned on doing until he - along with Brown - won one of several tickets given away at a recent young adult ministry meeting.
Gilbert, 43, said he hopes the pope will speak on spiritual topics rather than contemporary issues.
"I guess maybe I just don't know what to expect, so it'll be a new experience," he said.
Brown, who said she's been trying to become more spiritual in recent years by taking classes, believes the pope's visit is coming at an opportune time in her life.
"This is definitely a big turning point for me," she said.