Valley residents traveling to Italy for canonizations of Popes John Paul II, John XXIII

Christine Accurso walked into a surprise birthday party to learn her husband had another secret up his sleeve.

The Gilbert mother learned for the past few months he had been secretly working on a budget, saving money to send her to Rome for the canonizations of Pope John Paul II and John XXIII, the ceremonial recognizing of sainthood.

"I was shocked, so happy, amazed, it was wonderful," said Christine while smiling.

However, Christine quickly decided to change the plans.

"Pope John Paul II really touched my life and I know he is all about marriage and family so I said I wasn't going without him (husband).

Aaron, Christine's husband, wasn't expecting his wife to make the request, but quickly obliged.

"Oh there just went the budget out the window," said Aaron while laughing and describing the moment. "We will never, nor anyone else ever have the opportunity to be present when the church makes this dedication."

Married 14 years, Christine said the move erased any missteps by Aaron.

"Every card he missed, every gift he missed or did not do well on, that's all done," said Christine while laughing.  "Yes, major bonus points, this is a blessing."

The Accurso's make it clear, for them this is no vacation, it's a way for the Gilbert couple to get to the roots of their faith.

"It's like hitting the reset button, this is more of a pilgrimage for us," said Aaron. "I call it a once in a forever opportunity."

Christine said she recalls as a child watching  the white smoke billow into the air and Pope John Paul II emerge.

"There was something infectious about him, watching him on TV, travel the world, people clinging to him going who is this guy," said Christine with a stack of old newspapers nearby.  "He started helping me draw into Christ."

The Accurso's call that man a hero.

"John Paul II constantly spoke about hope and when he became Pope he said do not be afraid," said Christine.  "I have read his writings and he means so much to us along with John XXIII."

The historic event is set to take place this weekend and the Accurso's are expected to be two people in a crowd of 3 million.

"These are the second and third Popes in the last 500 years that are being declared Saints," said Aaron.  "Yes, I plan to be a big sponge and take it all in."

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