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U.S. Sen. Tim Kaine and his wife, Virginia Secretary of Education Anne Holton, get a hug from Ethel Cooley, office manager at St. Elizabeth Catholic Church. (Photo by: Jay Paul)
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St. Elizabeth Catholic Church parishioner Berhane Desta talks with U.S. Sen. Tim Kaine as he heads into Mass with his wife, Virginia Secretary of Education Anne Holton. (Photo by: Jay Paul)
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Parishioners enter St. Elizabeth Catholic Church for Mass. (Photo by: Jay Paul)
Tim Kaine and Anne Holton ascended the steps of St. Elizabeth Catholic Church on Richmond's North Side, greeted their fellow parishioners as they entered the sanctuary and settled in the 10th pew from the front, just as they always do.
It was like any other Sunday morning for the U.S. senator and Virginia secretary of education at the church where they were married in 1984 and have remained members ever since. But this, the couple’s first visit since Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton announced Kaine as her running mate on Friday, had the feeling of a send-off.
This week, the former Richmond City Council member, mayor and Virginia governor heads to Philadelphia for the Democratic National Convention, where he will formally accept the party’s nomination as vice president. After the convention, he will set off on a grueling campaign schedule in the run-up to the November presidential election pitting Clinton against Republican Donald Trump.
The next three and a half months will be a whirlwind of rallies and fundraisers and noise for the couple. Sunday morning Mass at St. Elizabeth was a last moment of respite.
And so they clapped along with the choir as it sang, listened intently during the sermon and shook hands with and hugged all who came to greet them.
After receiving communion, Kaine joined the church’s 20-member choir for a surprise solo rendition of the hymn “Taste and See.” Accompanied by a pianist, he delivered three verses in a confident tenor, with backing only during the refrain. At the end of the number, he returned to his pew to an ovation.
The performance was orchestrated by Amy Williford-Brew, a choir member and a close family friend of the couple. “When he announced on CNN yesterday that he’d be at church on Sunday, my husband and I said, ‘Oh, well we can get him to sing!’ ” Williford-Brew says. “He’s been a longtime member of the choir, a family friend, so I decided to send him a text message late last night.”
Kaine returned to Richmond late Saturday night after an appearance in Miami with Clinton, his first as her running mate. A crowd of 300 waited to greet Kaine outside the couple’s Ginter Park home. He accepted Williford-Brew’s invitation Sunday morning at 6 a.m., three hours before Mass was to begin. He had performed the solo with the choir before, she says. “He did amazing.”
As Mass drew to a close, Holton stood and asked the congregation for prayers and support over the next few months as she and Kaine embark on a new chapter together.
“We’ll all have a big party on the other end, no matter what happens,” she concluded to laughter and applause through the sanctuary.
U.S. Sen. Tim Kaine, accompanied by his wife, Virginia Secretary of Education Anne Holton, addresses reporters after Mass at St. Elizabeth Catholic Church. (Photo by: Jay Paul)
The couple met with friends and well-wishers for more than 30 minutes after the service ended, before exiting to a gaggle of reporters and photographers hovering at the bottom of the steps, near an idling SUV waiting to whisk Kaine away.
“If you were inside, you saw what a special community this is,” Kaine told the group. “… This and our neighborhood are really the center of our lives here. We needed some prayers today, and we got some prayers and got some support and it really feels good.”
Kristine Chiodo sat next to Kaine and Holton during the Mass. She had met them before, when she taught the couple’s son trigonometry during his junior year at Maggie Walker Governor’s School, back when Kaine was governor. They remembered her, she says.
“It was a little surreal knowing I could be sitting beside the next vice president and his wife,” she says. “But they’re just so sweet, they’re so down to earth. This is their home, this is their refuge. That’s not a show. They are 100 percent invested in this service and this community.”