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Friday, April 15, 2005

Most people who grew up under the papacy of John Paul II cannot appreciate the magnitude of his accent to the Chair of St. Peter.

Imagine the first non-Italian pope in more than 450 years.

A cardinal from behind the Iron Curtain during the Cold War.A youngest man. Vibrant. A man with a secular past. A pope schussing down the slopes in a ski suit.

A Polish Pope in an era of ridicule aimed at Poles.

To give some indication of the shock of his selection, I recall that day, I was executive director of the City Club of Chicago. We were hosting Mayor Michael Bilandic as our luncheon speaker.

Within moments of the start of his reamrks, I received a call.

A new pope had been elected.

He was Polish.

Confident that the mayor would want to announce such a significant event immediately, I told the mayor's security officer that a new pope had been named.

I had his interest. I proceeded to tell him the pontiff was Polish.

With utter disdain, the security guard glared at me, then, with gritted teeth said:"I happen to be Polish, and I dont like Polish jokes, OK"?.

I assured him that I was not kidding.... and since my mother was a Sikorski, I could relate to his feeling. He still refused to believe me.

The idea that a Pole was elected pope was beyond all comprehension.

After my most earnest efforts, he phoned his supervisor. Receiving the confirmation he needed, he slipped a note to Bilandic. The mayor paused, read the note silently and ten looked back at the security officer in a quizzical fashion.

He obviously was trying to assure himself that the information was true. The security guard nodded confirmation.

Only then did the mayor, with an air of surprise, announce the news to the 200 people who gathered to hear his State of Chicago speech.

The unlikely pontiff has now completed the mostly unlikely of tenures. The third longest papacy in 2,000 years. Upending communism with any military. Wounded by a would be assasin. Apologizing for centuries of anti-Semintism. Traveling the world to spread his sense of the word of God.

Addressing all issues with a firmness of faith, softened by a divine love.

The world is his beneficiary.

God Bless Him.

(Larry P. Horst/Chicago)



I am not a religious man. As a non-practicing Catholic and a student of a university level social justice course, the pope's declining health and ultimate death were, at most, peripherally evident to me.

In the ensuing moments since his passing, I've come to learn of an immensely intelligent overwhelmingly compassionate man who committed his life to the betterment of humanity, to each and every human being, regardless of color, status or religious affiliation.

He was a man who exuded genuine goodness and unprecedented sincerity.

All through my course in social justice, I've searched for a hero to mankind to revere and, perhaps, to one day implore my children to emulate.

My search is over, the hero found.

(Mike Stickman/Highland, Indiana)



More than two years ago, I experienced a serious stroke that left me with many limitations.

At about that time, it was apparent that Pope John Paul II was suffering with Parkinson's disease. If I ever became discouraged, I would consider Pope John Paul II and how he did not stop struggling to do God's work.

His example helped me to realize that what had happened to me was also a great opportunity to be faithful to God's will. Before all of this, I had read many of his encyclicals and letters dealing with such topics as marriage, family life, the value of suffering, the importance of truth and the sanctity of human life.

So I have been under his fatherly guidance for many years. In fact all of our children have been to Rome or have attended World Youth Days and have been deeply affected just being in his presence and hearing his message.

Yes the pope has done a lot for my husband, my family and me in all aspects of life in reinforcing our Catholic faith.

And now he will continue his influence even in death. We will remember the encouraging word of Pope John Paul II:

"Be not afraid".

(Nancy McCormack/ Valparaiso, Indianna)



On the day it was announced to the world that a Polish priest, Karol Wojtyla, had been elected as the new pope of the Roman Catholic Church, my mother, who was in her mid-80's and suffering from the first stage of Alzeihmers' sat on our couch and started to cry.

She was not a woman prone to crying, having sucessfully raised five children and having always been there for her daughters to lend a helping hand with one or more of her 13 grandchildren. I sat down next to her, put my arms around her and asked her why the sad tears on such a joyous occasion.

She looked up at me and, to my amazement, she was smiling. They had been tears of joy, not sadness. My mother's parents arrived in the United States from Poland as immigrants at the turn of the 20th Century. They moved to Chicago's South Side, where jobs for laborers were plentiful, and remained there for their entire lives, as did four of their five children.

Polish jokes abounded in those days and for many years to come. This plethora of insults however, gradually subsided when it became obvius to even the most ignorant that the Polish pope was an extraordinary leader of the faith, and may someday go down in the history books as one of the greatest and most respected popes in 2,000 years.

This I know for sure. When Pope John Paul II entered into the kingdom of heaven, my dear mother was right up front with the faithful minions, cheering and welcoming this remarkable soul to his reserved seat at the right hand of God.

(Joan O'Keefe Driscoll/ Ft. Lauderdale)

(abstracted from CHICAGOTRIBUNE)
posted by infraternam meam @ 9:11 PM  
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Name: infraternam meam
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About Me: I am now at the prime of my life and have been married for the past 25 years. Sickly at times, but wants to see the elixir vita, so that I will be able to see my grandchildren from my two boys.
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