Students “Elect” Cardinal Dolan Pope

Eighth-grade students in Lori Kimminau’s class at St. Francis Borgia Grade School held a mock conclave and election of the pope last week, with each student researching a different cardinal and giving a presentation on why their choice should be elected. After three rounds of voting, Cardinal Timothy Dolan, who was presented by Sarah Eckelkamp, center, received two-thirds of the student vote and was “elected” pope. Debbie Williams, right, school secretary and sister of Cardinal Dolan, speaks with the students. Also shown, from left, are students Cameron Ferguson, Cole Hanneken and Claire Emke.   Missourian Photo.

“We don’t know any more than you do.”

That’s the message Debbie Williams, Washington, sister to Cardinal Timothy Dolan, who is among the 115 cardinal electors now at the Vatican voting to select the next pope, has been repeating over and over again to friends, acquaintances and the press.

“We don’t have any inside information,” she said.

Williams understands the interest and excitement. Her brother’s name has been mentioned more and more in recent days as having a good chance at being elected pope.

But that’s not anything she or others in the family are focused on at the moment.

“You try not to let yourself go there,” Williams, a secretary at St. Francis Borgia Grade School, told The Missourian. “ . . . now he’s a cardinal, and he gets to vote for the next pope. How amazing is that?

“But it’s coming at us from every direction — the press, friends . . . so every once in a while, I stop and think, ‘What if?’

“Talk about a life-changing event! Our lives would never be the same.”

Williams, who routinely talks to her brother once a week, said she hasn’t discussed all the hype about him potentially being elected pope.

“When we talk to Tim, we talk about each other — how are the kids, how are the babies, how are you?” said Williams.

“It would be very presumptuous of us ever to say, ‘Oh, yes, my brother could be the pope.’ Of course, we know anything is possible — any one of those men could be the pope — but we have never spoken of that as a family. Tim has never said, ‘I want to be pope.’ ”

It is a daunting position, to say the least, she said.

“That’s why our thoughts are with him right now on deciding who should take on that role.”

‘His Way of Evangelizing’

The media attention on Cardinal Dolan began almost as soon as Pope Benedict XVI announced his resignation. That’s when the calls and questions began for his family.

Cardinal Dolan grew up the oldest of five siblings living in Ballwin, but his mother, Shirley Dolan, and his two sisters now live in Washington. He also has two brothers, one in St. Louis and another in Milwaukee.

“It’s uncomfortable for us to talk about,” Williams said. “I don’t feel like an expert. I’m an expert on being Tim’s sister.”

Their mother, too, prefers to shy away from all of the media attention.

Cardinal Dolan, however, has the talent for public speaking.

“This is his way of evangelizing,” said Williams. “He likes that people are interested in our faith. He wants to answer their questions.

“He’s so good at it,” she added. “But we’re just normal people. We don’t know anymore than you do.”

Williams said she hasn’t talked to her brother for several days and now that the conclave has begun, he’s out of communication completely.

She and the rest of Cardinal Dolan’s family are watching the national and international news, just as the rest of the world, to get the latest information.

Some experts say Cardinal Dolan is an unlikely choice for pope because he’s American and because he was elevated to cardinal just 13 months ago.

Williams said the family doesn’t mind either way.

“We’re just anxious for this to be over so we can go back to a normal life.”