“Santo subito”, or “Sainthood now” was the cry on St Peter’s Square at the April 8, 2005 funeral of the beloved Pope, John Paul II.
The upcoming beatification of the late John Paul II was announced last Friday, January 14, 2011 by the current pope. Benedict XVI in a statement said, cardinals and bishops who served on the Vatican’s Congregation for the Causes of Saints have approved a miracle credited to John Paul II where a French nun had been cured from a form of Parkinson’s disease. This confirmation of the miracle is the first step to sainthood.
The beatification ceremony will take place in Rome on May 1st and it appears Pope Benedict himself will celebrate the Mass.
John Paul II also known as Karol Wojtyla was perhaps the most revered man of his time. As the leader of the world’s Roman Catholics, he traveled the continents and met with the faithful. He was described by those who knew him as a strong, humble man who listened to his flock.
John Paul felt that the papacy should serve the people and not the other way around. He truly was the servant of the servants of God.
Locally, the memory and the influence of John Paul still are strong, especially in the Polish American parishes. In 1969, as Archbishop of Krakow, the then Karol Wojtyla visited St Casimir, SS Peter and Paul, St Stanislaus, and the Marymount Shrine of Our Lady of Czestochowa.
At SS Peter and Paul, the former pastor, Father Ted Marszal pointed out in an interview to the media that in the vestibule of Peter and Paul, a plaque on the wall commemorates Wojtyla’s visit.
At the now closed St Casimir church, which is appealing its closure, many of the weekly prayer vigil attendees still remember his visit. He stayed at St Casimir and celebrated Mass. His words, “Be not afraid” have inspired these parishioners to keep fighting to reopen their church. A vigil attendee, said “John Paul died on the eve of Divine Mercy, a devotion he encouraged...and he had a special relationship to Mary, Our Blessed Mother.”
At Immaculate Heart of Mary Church on Lansing Avenue, a local television station dispatched a reporter to the 10:00 AM Sunday Mass to interview people whom had met or personally knew John Paul, either as the Archbishop of Krakow or as Pope, for many of these parishioners were natives of the Krakow Diocese.
Father Andrzej Knapik, Associate Priest at Immaculate Heart and a former member of the adjoining diocese of Tarnow, Poland said he met John Paul in Italy at a papal audience and that in his opinion, “He was a great man, a great Pope, a good priest, warm and open and above all he inspired people”.
Alina Stepien, age 14, studied the life of John Paul in a school project and said “He was a strong willed person who overcame his Parkinson’s disease.” She also observed, “He always had time for young people. He helped them develop spiritually, mentally and even physically for he was an avid sportsman.”
Krystyna Kubis, a native of Kety, Poland, part of the Krakow Diocese, said “When I lived in Poland I saw John Paul at least a dozen times and on some occasions we exchanged greetings. My daughter, Barbara was confirmed by him and I remember him sitting down, talking with the children and laughing with them. He always had a smile; he was very popular with people of all ages.”
Another parishioner, Sylvester Kujawa said “I had been in a few Papal audiences and in his presence (John Paul), you felt he was a man of peace, a man of God. He respected all religions and I think they respected him too.”
The parishioners of Immaculate Heart have a special fondness for John Paul, some knew him but others only knew of him as the Pope of the people. His words still echo today, “Nie Bojcie Sie”, which means “Be not Afraid”.
Across continents, in all societies, the man from the Beskidy Mountains, Wadowice, Poland will be remembered as a citizen of the world. He belongs to all the people.
The people have spoken, “Santo Subito”.
—by Joseph Feckanin