Local Catholics take to the streets, parishes to celebrate canonizations of two popes

By Joyce Duriga | Editor
Sunday, May 4, 2014

Catholics around the Archdiocese of Chicago came out to celebrate the canonizations of Popes John XXIII and John Paul II on April 27, but for many, it was the latter pontiff who was the focus of the celebrations.

Celebrations began in the early morning hours as people gathered at Five Holy Martyrs Parish, 4327 S. Richmond, for prayer and musical performances that culminated in the 3 a.m. viewing of the canonizations in Rome followed by Mass.

John Paul II visited Five Holy Martyrs during his 1979 trip to the United States and celebrated Mass there. The outdoor altar still remains in the parish parking lot and the presider’s chair, which John Paul II sat in during the Mass, is on display in the parish vestibule.

Jozef Bafia from the Polish Highlanders Alliance attended the Five Holy Martyrs’ event. He knew John Paul when he was Cardinal Karol Wojtyla in Poland, met him four times and saw him two other times as pope.

John Paul’s canonization is very special to Bafia.

“It is not something many people will have happen in their lives — to meet the person, to touch him, to talk to him and now he’s a saint,” Bafia told the archdiocese’s Office of Radio and Television. “It’s something unbelievable, undescribable.”

John Paul invited everyone around the world to the Catholic Church, “He’s a saint to all, especially the young.”

Parishes and groups around the archdiocese held their own commemorations, many of which centered around the Divine Mercy Chaplet.

Later on in the morning, Polish Catholics met up at Holy Trinity Polish Mission, 1118 N. Noble St., and processed five miles to St. Hyacinth Basilica, 3636 W. Wolfram St., for music and a Mass celebrating John Paul II’s canonization. About 600 people joined in the procession and many more met them at the church for the standing-room-only service.

Many in the procession wore Tshirts with John Paul’s image on them, carried Polish and papal flags and sang through the streets.

Maggie Lapinska joined the procession to honor John Paul II. She’s from Poland originally and said she was proud and happy when she heard John Paul would be canonized.

“It’s a really big deal for all Catholics not only Polish ones that he became a saint right now.” She said that John Paul worked to unite all Christians during his life.

“I think he showed people that Christian people have to be more open-minded, go outside of their way of thinking. He showed us that Jewish people are our older brothers.”

Ursula Dabros attended the service at St. Hyacinth and said she was always proud that John Paul was from Poland.

“He was a very good example for everybody. He treated people the same even if they were Catholic or not,” she said.

She saw Pope John Paul during one of his visits to Poland when she was 17. About a million people turned out to see him on that day, she said.

“I was young at the time and I couldn’t understand why the people all came but after that when I grew I understood it was because he showed us the love.”

The day’s celebration ended with Cardinal George celebrating the 5:15 p.m. Mass at Holy Name Cathedral for the canonizations.

During his homily, Cardinal George told the standing-room-only congregation that the Second Vatican Council united John XXIII and John Paul II — John XXIII called the council and John Paul dedicated his pontificate to carrying out the council.

“To make today’s celebration have lasting effect, we need to re-examine our own lives and ask how we have taken to heart the mandate of the council,” the cardinal said. “How have we helped the Lord influence, change, convert the affairs of the world itself?”

Since the council the popes have told us we are all called to participate in the new evangelization, “one that is rooted in our own conversion of mind and heart and action, based on our own friendship with Christ,” he said.

This plays out in all aspects of our lives, both public and private, he said.

“In short, the New Evangelization called for by the council and worked out in fits and starts in the intervening years, calls us to a deeper friendship with God and to a way of life, both private and public, that makes this world a bit more like the eternal Kingdom of God rather than where we now live.”